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146 of 154 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Shaggy Dog Story, With Some Bite
Lots of fiction works incorporate books or bookstores as central to their plots. Some make good use of both; I'm thinking here of works like "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore". Most, though, use a book as a sort of MacGuffin and it could just as easily be a butter dish. Or, the action takes place in a nice atmospheric bookstore that could just as easily be an auto repair...
Published 9 months ago by Pop Bop

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101 of 122 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice, Safe Story
There is nothing wrong with this book. I'll begin by saying that. It is decently written. It moves along at a fair pace. The characters are somewhat interesting for the most part. I have nothing particularly negative to say about the story.

I didn't, however, especially like the book. I didn't dislike it either. It was a nice story. It was a safe story...
Published 8 months ago by Cynthia C.C.


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146 of 154 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Shaggy Dog Story, With Some Bite, March 21, 2014
By 
Pop Bop "Pause and Reflect" (Denver, Colorado, United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel (Hardcover)
Lots of fiction works incorporate books or bookstores as central to their plots. Some make good use of both; I'm thinking here of works like "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore". Most, though, use a book as a sort of MacGuffin and it could just as easily be a butter dish. Or, the action takes place in a nice atmospheric bookstore that could just as easily be an auto repair shop. "Fikry", though, is different and belongs to that small category of works that really have something to say about books and bookstores and, in this case, booksellers. And that's great.

Fikry is not just a bookseller. He filters his experiences, his thoughts, even pretty much how he lives his life by reference to his favorite books. Everything he perceives has some analogue in a book he once read, and when he isn't living his life he is thinking about or talking about books. It is no accident that the first major character we meet here is a publisher's rep who begins to play a larger and larger role in Fikry's life. And, because Fikry's opinions are strong and well-informed, the book is interesting enough even if you don't care for the plot at all.

This book has been heavily promoted as "in the spirit" of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society". That's probably good marketing - "Guernsey..." is a well-loved book, although I thought it was a little bland and flabby. But, this book is a lot better, or at least more appealing to me, in one particular regard. A.J. Fikry is a prickly character with a lot of strong opinions and a not entirely likeable or appealing world view. This is not some grand multi-generational saga; it is more of a character sketch, focused on an unusual character. More important - on a thought provoking and sometimes difficult character.

So, no spoilers here. The blurbs give you a good idea of how this story develops. What is important is simply to note that Fikry is interesting and what he says and thinks about books is interesting. Bottom line - if you like amiable shaggy dog life stories, or if you don't usually but you do like reading about interesting people thinking about interesting books, then you might very much enjoy this. I did.

Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
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98 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tribute to the love of books, March 19, 2014
This review is from: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel (Hardcover)
I absolutely loved this novel. A.J. Fikry is the owner of a small, independent bookstore on the small Alice Island in the Northeast. He is cynical, cranky, and depressed...and not without reason. The recent death of his beloved wife has left him a widower at the age of thirty-nine. Their shared love of books seems to have died with his wife and A.J. is left behind with only bitterness.

Enter an absolutely delightful cast of secondary characters who populate the island and A.J.'s life. You're bound to love at least one - if not all - of them.

Next we have the unexpected hope and redemption of A.J. I'm not giving any spoilers here. Yes, it's a feel-good book. But it's more than that: it's a love letter to the power books have in our lives. If you have ever felt changed by a book, this novel will speak to you....you'll "get" it. And if you loved "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" or "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" you'll find lots to love here, as well - not because the plots are similar, but because of the similar feel to the novels that comes from a good cast of eccentric townsfolk, a small community, and a sense of closeness among the characters.

So I'll leave you with this: if you love reading books, do not miss this one. (I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it made into a movie!)
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101 of 122 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice, Safe Story, April 27, 2014
This review is from: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel (Hardcover)
There is nothing wrong with this book. I'll begin by saying that. It is decently written. It moves along at a fair pace. The characters are somewhat interesting for the most part. I have nothing particularly negative to say about the story.

I didn't, however, especially like the book. I didn't dislike it either. It was a nice story. It was a safe story. It was gentle and sweet and cozy and predictable. For many readers, those are all excellent qualities. But if you, like myself, prefer books with at least a few edges, a few uncertainties, a little darkness, a little messiness, and some deeper character development, then this isn't the book for you. It's simply a matter of preference.
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39 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this so much!, April 8, 2014
THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY is for book lovers. Anyone who has worked in the business of selling or publishing books will adore how Gabrielle Zevin weaves 'insider' humor throughout the story. Booksellers everywhere will be nodding their heads unanimously, exclaiming, "Yep, that's exactly how it is!"

But one doesn't have to be in the book business to love this book. There is something for everyone: love, friendship, sorrow, romance, laughter, unforgettable characters and writing that sparkles. One of the wonderful things about this story is that it will make you laugh and smile, and perhaps cry, all without ever being sickeningly sweet or pretentious or too goofy.

A.J. Fikry is the cranky owner of Island Books, a small independent book store on Alice Island in New England. He has recently lost his wife and is miserably drinking too much when a smart little toddler named Maya is abandoned in his store. Maya breathes new happiness and meaning into his life, and he adopts her. I won't ruin the surprises by saying more, but there is much much more.

I absolutely loved this book and will be recommending it to everyone I know (and don't know) come April, 2014, when it is published. Readers who loved books like The Rosie Project and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry will love this book, although it truly stands alone.

I thank NetGalley and Algonquin Publishing for the privilege of reading an advanced electronic copy of this book. It was purely my pleasure.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On my shelf of favorite books now!, March 24, 2014
By 
This review is from: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel (Hardcover)
Have you purposefully read a book slowly so it wouldn't end? This is one of those books. I loved the story and I fell in LOVE with the characters. I miss them. In the middle of the book, there is a profound revelation that comes slowly; crafted by the author in a most clever way. I was so emotionally involved with the book at that point, that I put it down for a day. I had to absorb what was happening to "my friends". That is powerful writing. In the most humorous and endearing ways, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry makes an important statement on our culture and community but again, it's prize is the powerful writing. Mark Twain would be impressed by how much she says in so few words. It is magical that way. So, in equal parts, I loved the writing, the meaning and the story. This book got the #1 Pick of Independent Booksellers and has gotten numerous accolades; all well deserved! I am looking forward to her next book. BRAVO!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book was a sweet, heartfelt read, July 21, 2014
This review is from: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel (Hardcover)
This book was a sweet, heartfelt read. Easy to digest, it reads almost like a series of the short stories A.J. Fikry so loves.

I am sucker for a book about books or a book about people who love books. This one had all of the right characters- a curmudgeonly bookshop owner to a bright-eyed, young, flower-child optimist. It is a lovely glimpse into the lives of those who live for their books and their bookstore.

It didn't absolutely blow me away with anything new or revelatory, but it is a nice read that will make for a great summer book for anyone looking for something to pick up.

Note: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a Spellbindingly Charismatic Read, As It Were, But Unyielding in Its Charm Offensive -- Pretty Delightful Stuff., April 7, 2014
This review is from: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel (Hardcover)
If you are now, ever have been, or wish you really were in fact a (mostly) shameless book junkie, I think you will be very hard-pressed to dislike this book if/when you read it. Heck, I think mere "social users" of fiction will naturally feel some affection for author Gabrielle Zevin's creation.

I wouldn't call the book irresistible. It was neither a masterpiece that humbled me with admiration, nor did it ever capture my entire imagination because of an ability to engage an intense intellectual or emotional passion. I'm not in love with it.

But, what Zevin's art did do is speak directly to my book-loving heart in its own (our own -- you know what I'm talking about, dear reader ;) special language. Doesn't that sound delightful? It is!

<i>The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry</i> is, in sum, an unusually charming book. One of the strengths that I believe to be integral to the production of this decidedly pleasant effect on the reader is the curmudgeonly, somewhat snobbish nature of the protagonist and his relationship with books. But, if you love to read, the effect of this snobbishness is not alienating but inclusive. That is, the character is frequently presented by the narrator with the implicit assumption that we will understand his peculiarities and chuckle at them sympathetically -- or if there are no no sympathetic chuckles, there will be knowing smirks at the very least.

These parts of the novel wherein Zevin showcases her wit by poking fun at her creation, her readers, and herself are balanced with others, during which the narrator doesn't frame our hero's perspective so perceptibly. The third-person narration is more straightforward allowing us to connect more directly with the bookseller. This narrative style is employed to increase the impression -- and for me at least, the great personal resonance -- of the protagonist's more poignant, not-at-all-mock-worthy ideas about how books improve and sustain us -- from our minds clear through to our souls.

As other reviews I have read point out, this a quick, engaging read. I highly recommend it not simply because almost every reader will enjoy reading it, in main. Rather I encourage you to read it for the precious insights into the experience and practice of reading. You will take whatever you will from this book, but I advise you take this from me: <i>The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry</i> is a very worthy read.

Please be advised I received a free copy of this novel in a Bookreporter.com giveaway so that I would then share my honest impressions in a publicly posted review (i.e. this thing). Thanks for giving my thoughts on this book your attention. I hope some of this review proves useful to you. Cheers.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "We are...only love.", May 31, 2014
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"We aren't the things we collect, acquire, read. We are, for as long as we are here, only love. The things we loved. The people we loved. And these, I think these really do live on."

A.J. Fikry sells books. That alone made me want to read this particular book. Pathetic, I know...but there's something about stories featuring booksellers that stab me in the stomach. That Mr. Fikry was lonely and grumpy only added to my need to read.

Mr. Fikry is a widower. The author shows us his pain, his pushing away from pleasures and people. And after losing his prized, rare collection of Poe poems, the last ounce of any hope he had for himself dissolves. And then a mysterious package, with a mysterious note is left in his little bookshop. And with this package, a trace of hope flickers...

This is a book about love. Pure and Simple. Love comes in all forms, and when it unexpectedly pops up in your life, you've got to hold onto it...keep it in your heart for those days when all hope is lost. For that reason alone, I recommend this book. Fall in love. Read it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A.J. Fikry would throw this book across the room, October 21, 2014
By 
Ellen Etc. "Garret Books" (Northern California, USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel (Hardcover)
A toddler is abandoned in a bookstore, eventually melting the icy heart of the unpleasant, widowed owner. A.J. Fikry. Silas Marner, anyone?

Each chapter begins with a commentary by the bookstore owner on a famous short story, and it's amusing to look for the connection between the famous story and the subsequent events of that chapter in this novel. I would not expect this book's audience to make the literary connections on their own, however, because readers of classic fiction are more likely to be as annoyed as Fikry is with chick lit. Indeed, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel is one of the crop of disposable titles bookstore owner Fikry would stock only out of desperation.

Bookstore clerks, English majors, and book industry workers will enjoy an unlikable "writer" side character, the author's obvious love of classic fiction, the scene of an over-the-top author reading, the theft of one of the world's most expensive books, and the Black Books - The Complete First Series type of eccentric bookstore owner.

However, heavy-handed foreshadowing initially confuses the reader and then spoils any sense of suspense. Tongue-in-cheek, self-referential criticisms also become annoying, as when a promising young writer's story is criticized for avoiding contractions and writing in third-person present tense, both of which are quirks of Zevin's herself, or when the bookstore owner says he doesn't like "orphan books" or "supposedly clever formal devices" - both of which The Storied Life includes.

The child character is the weakest link in the cast. (Practical impediments to a contemporary single man being allowed to adopt a toddler were easily dismissed.) The child begins as a bright 3-year-old who speaks in one-word commands, like precocious baby talk, as if young children who can say "downstairs" ever just stop there. The orphan, who naturally becomes a voracious reader, is an idealized nerdy, compliant, and insightful child -- just what you want for a book that seems written expressly to be a movie adaptation, to pander to both chick-lit and chick-flick audiences.

I disliked this book for the same reason I disliked The Bridges of Madison County; it's a pretentious, title-dropping book for a type of popular fiction reader who imagines herself a serious reader. This book offers a little more hope for the earnest pop fiction reader than does "The Bridges of Madison County," though, with a cop character who is slowly introduced to literary fiction via police procedurals. Literary snobbishness is mentioned often enough to wonder if the author takes herself seriously, believing she can successfully lift elements from classic novels and plop them into what is, in the final analysis, a chick-lit book, one in which plot "reveals" depend on characters keeping important (and trivial) secrets from each other ... forever. As in soap operas, "talking criminal" scenes eventually clear up all ambiguity (which is a characteristic that discriminating Fikry admits he likes, though "most readers" don't), again making it appear the author is mocking both her Fikry character and any readers naïve enough to take her book to heart.

Author Zevin appears determined to disprove character Fikry's idea that "literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying." Here, Zevin is hoist by her own petard, unless the point is that great literature only makes one fusty and unpleasant, and that when one's heart opens, one can embrace chick lit like "The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry" and consider it a book of literary merit.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do Not Walk Away. This Book Will Resonate With You., April 25, 2014
Have you ever sat down to write a review only to be afraid that your inadequate words might scare off future readers? That is where I am right now. I am afraid that my words might diminish this book and therefore others might choose to walk away without giving this book the attention that it deserves.

Do not walk away. This book will resonate with you. After the tears have subsided, it will fill you up with the belief that good can come from horrible situations.

For me, this small book was actually a story within a story. It begins with Amelia, a publishing representative, trying to sell a book from her winter catalog entitled “The Late Bloomer”; but by the end of the book, I began to wonder if Amelia and A.J. were actually the characters described within the original manuscript. Well, at least that is how I walked away.

A.J. Fikry is a young widowed bookseller who is very particular as to what he will sell, when Amelia arrives at Island Books, A.J. is completely ill mannered but that seems to be the beginning for both of them.

A.J. usually spends his evenings with microwaved meals and enough alcohol to help him to pass out, but this evening, he decides to take out his copy of Tamerlane, a limited publication written by Poe, that A.J. found and thinks of his retirement fund. After a night of drinking the book is gone, his future is gone, until one evening when he is closing the store he hears a sound, someone has left a beautiful baby girl with a note.

Thus begins the second season of A.J.’s life.

You do not want this book to end. You want all the happily ever after’s for all the characters involved. You want these people, which have been drawn together because of Maya, to stay the way they are into their doddering old age because that is what each of them needs. Unfortunately, that is not the way it is supposed to be. There has to be a crack somewhere. A truth needs to be told and a story must come to an end.

A spectacular one at that.

This book is a shelf keeper. One of those books that each time you read it; you will come away with something different.

Each character is well placed with no extras. They each have a story to tell. There is no extra fluff. No need to round out and fill pages. This book hits you in the heart and that is where the characters will stay.

This would be an excellent book for a group discussion. There is depth and layers that could be discussed. Justifications behind decisions made and characters further explored could keep you talking well into the night, if not into the next week.
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The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin (Hardcover - April 1, 2014)
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