The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

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The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

by Katarina Bivald

November 2016

Oh, this is such a sweet, endearing novel! It is cute, creative, and describes the idyllic small town. At times it was a bit schmaltzy (yes, even for me), but it didn’t detract from the book. Bivald created a town that I wanted to visit and characters that felt like friends by the time I left them. The characters were full of quirks, but also had heartfelt and sweet moments throughout. I loved the writing and read through this one in two sittings. I truly escaped into The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend and I’m happy I did. I also got a lot of book suggestions while reading, so that’s a huge plus! 😉

Sara is a young, jobless woman from Sweden who has decided to take an extended vacation to visit her pen pal, Amy, in Broken Wheel, Iowa. She and Amy corresponded about all sorts of things, but mainly sent books back and forth to each other. Sara doesn’t leave much behind in the way of family, friends, or connections, so she is happy to escape for a few months. However, when she arrives in Broken Wheel, she learns that Amy has just passed away, and the idyllic town Amy wrote about is nothing more than a small, dying town. While she is struggling with this unanticipated reality, Sara is welcomed by the town and it’s settled that she’ll stay in Amy’s house like Amy would have wanted. At first Sara is hesitant, but before long she decides to give the town a chance and try to enjoy her vacation. What she doesn’t know is that the town council (comprised of the town prude, Caroline, a flustered housewife, Jen, and a gay bar owner, Andy) is trying to set her up with the hot town bachelor, Tom (who happens to be Amy’s nephew). Their first meeting is anything but smooth. Sara doesn’t have a driver’s license, so Tom gives her a lift into town, but is clearly not pleased; while Sara is more interested in reading a book than talking to Tom. Sara is a voracious reader — someone who loves the escape that a good book brings — who worked at a bookstore for 10 years before it closed and subsequently led her to visit the US.  Spoilers: as Sara meets more and more of the townsfolk, she realizes that they need to read, and that she is the one to help them. She decides to open up a bookshop for the town with Amy’s vast library. She can’t legally work on her visa, so she decides it is the town’s bookshop and she is merely helping out. As an added bonus she can use it to repay the town’s kindness and plethora of free meals/drinks they’ve been giving her. Sure enough the town is slowly touched by Sara’s work. She is a bright light that everyone is drawn to (even people from the adjoining “big town” of Hope). Sara recommends books to anyone who comes in the shop, creates cleaver sections of books to display, and orders books to fill in any holes. She loves her work, loves the town, and sure enough is falling in love with Tom, who naturally is falling for her, but they both won’t admit it. As Sara’s time in Broken Wheel draws to a close, the town conspires to keep her (as her visa requires her to return home and it’d be difficult for her to come back). They decide that she has to get married and that Tom’s the one to do it! They are both opposed because it isn’t for love (each of them thinking the other one is not in love with them), but get strong armed by the town to do it. However, they are prevented from actually marrying when the police find out (they suspect that there’s immigration fraud). After a lot of hullabaloo, they trick the police into believing that it was actually true love (which of course it really is), and Tom and Sara finally accept and admit to each other that they are in love. Sara is able to stay in the US and keep her bookshop open, which makes everyone happy. There were several side stories, which were heartening and lovely. One of a man named George whose wife walked out on him with is daughter. He became a drunkard, but slowly turned his life around hoping his daughter would someday find him, which she does in the end. All the townsfolk had personalities and stories that gave the book a depth and made it so interesting. I loved that! I also loved that some of the letters Amy wrote Sara are interspersed throughout the book . . . such a delightful touch.

Summing it up: this book was sweet, dynamic, and a simply enchanting read. I definitely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Lola and the Boy Next Door

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Lola and the Boy Next Door

by Stephanie Perkins

November 2016

Naturally, I read Lola and the Boy Next Door because it is part of a three book series by Stephanie Perkins, and I loved the first book, Anna and the French Kiss. I actually loved Lola more. It was incredible. Perkins creates such a dynamic love story that is interesting, filled with conflict, but absolutely beautiful and endearing. Her characters are relatable, even in their quirks, and I got totally swept away (I read this one cover to cover from 10:30-2:30 one night). I can’t say enough good things about the characters, plot, and romance.

Lola is a high school student in San Francisco who loves to sew and dress in elaborate costumes. She is crazy for her rock star boyfriend, Max, and incredibly nervous about who is moving next door. She is hoping beyond hope that it’s not the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, moving back to town. Calliope is a protege ice skater, so their family moves around a lot, and Cricket broke her heart two years ago when she was 15. They had a great friendship that seemed to be something more, but then Cricket moved away without even saying goodbye. Lola was (and maybe still is) heartbroken, but has moved on and is now quite happy with her boyfriend. Sadly for Lola, it is indeed the Bell twins moving back into their house next door and Lola is crushed, as well as crazy nervous to run into Cricket. Soon enough their paths cross and it is hard not to fall back into friendship. What makes matters worse is that Lola’s dads both dislike Max, but love Cricket. Lola battles increasing feelings for Cricket, which are exacerbated when he tells her he is crazy about her, never should have left her hanging two years ago, and wants to be with her badly. Lola is torn because she does still have feelings for Cricket, but she is also very happy with Max. Spoilers: as time moves on, Max becomes increasingly distant to Lola. He travels with his band a lot and he suspects something is up. Lola is spending more time with Cricket because she enjoys his company, but it’s getting harder to deny how she really feels and Cricket doesn’t want to compromise her and it’s getting harder for him to resist. Finally, the truth comes out. Lola and Cricket figure out that Calliope sabotaged their relationship years ago and Lola realizes that she can’t live without Cricket. She goes to Max and they have a horrible breakup with Max saying terrible things. Lola realizes that he’s not a nice guy, but is still heartbroken, and she doesn’t feel worthy of Cricket, so she keeps her distance and looses sight of herself for a while, trying to be “good” and “worthy” and “better.” Ultimately, she realizes that she loves Cricket and she wants to be with him and he is more than ready to be with her. By now it’s almost time for the winter formal (that Lola has been painstakingly making a Marie Antoinette dress for), and for Calliope’s big skating competition, which Cricket will be going to (sadly he won’t be able to go to the winter formal). The weekend arrives and Calliope rushes to Lola because her dress has gotten torn by her niece. She is distraught and Lola is the only one who can help. Lola agrees to make a new dress for Calliope (who has recently apologized and given her blessing to Lola and Cricket), and after she finishes and they leave, she gets ready for her formal. She puts together her costume, but is upset because it’s too costumey and not Lola enough. In her frustration she ruins her wig, but then who should appear to help: Cricket! He came back to surprise her so she didn’t have to go to the formal alone, and because his sister is a skater he knows how to fix hair, which he quickly does for Lola. Soon they are wrapped in a passionate embrace and share how they have always loved each other. Then they go off to the dance. Such a perfect ending! Anna and later Étienne, work at the same movie theater Lola does and Étienne and Cricket go to the same school. There’s a nice dynamic with them throughout the book, which was so lovely after finishing Anna.

Summing it up: this book was romantic, sweet, and perfect. I loved every second and I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

by J. K. Rowling

November 2016

Wow. Book 6 was a shocker. I have the usual praise for Rowling’s talent (gift really) of writing. She creates this amazing world filled with people you relate to and feel strongly about. I’m amazed and so happy I decided to read her books. I’m starting to really see how the books are getting darker. I’m so invested in these characters that it’s hard to see them go through difficult things. I really liked the book though and now I’m feeling torn because I want to finish the series, but I know I’ll be sad when I finish and I’m simply not ready to be done.

The end of summer is drawing near and Harry is getting ready to return to school for his 6th year, by way of a visit from Dumbledore. His aunt and uncle reluctantly let him leave with the Headmaster, and Harry is free from them for another year. Dumbledore’s reason for getting Harry is to enlist his help in persuading an ex-professor, Slughorn, to return to Hogwarts. Harry agrees and in the end is able to convince Slughorn to return, though he regrets it a little after learning that Slughorn is rather full of himself and rather fond of Harry. The new year begins filled with old friends and a more malicious Malfoy, whom Harry is convinced is in league with Voldemort (which he is quite right about). Harry is able to pursue being an Auror because Slughorn has replaced Snape as potions professor and Snape has finally reached his goal by becoming the defense of the dark arts professor. Harry is surprised to be a favorite in Slughorn’s class, not only because Slughorn likes him, but because he has a little extra help. His potions book is an old copy that was owned by the “Half-Blood Prince” who happened to excel at potions and had written in many edits, along with his own potions/spells. Those notes allow Harry to rise to the top of the class. Spoilers: He also has the pleasure of taking private lessons from Dumbledore where he learns a lot about Voldemort’s past: from how his parents met, to his father abandoning them, to his mother dying and him being raised in a orphanage until Dumbledore found him and brought him to Hogwarts. His complicated past sheds light on his character – he is a loaner, he delights in torturing others, and he has an insatiable desire to live forever by separating his soul and putting the pieces into different Horcruxes. Meanwhile, Harry is struggling with feelings for Ginny, who is newly single, and Ron and Hermione are flirting with a relationship. After a huge Quidditch match, Ginny and Harry finally kiss and become an official couple (yay . . . I was very happy about this). As Dumbledore and Harry’s lessons continue, Dumbledore tells Harry that he needs to get a particular memory from Professor Slughorn. Harry tries everything to no avail, until one night he takes the felix felicis potion (one he won in potions class thanks to the Half-Blood Prince), and his night is especially lucky, culminating with success in getting the memory. This memory shows that Prof. Slughorn taught Voldemort and in a moment that has brought him eternal guilt, told Voldemort about Horcruxes (and how they divide the soul and hold part of it and can only be performed when someone is murdered). Harry and Dumbledore discuss that Voldemort must have made 6 Horcruxes, keeping the 7th part of his soul in his body. They have already destroyed two (Riddle’s diary, and Marvolo’s ring), but there are 6 more to find and destroy before Voldemort can truly be defeated, and Dumbledore is pretty sure where to find the first one. He takes Harry on a long journey to a secret cave protected by many spells, but Dumbledore is able to pass. They enter the cave and find it holds a vast body of water with a little glowing island in the middle. In the water float dead bodies, but they are able to cross in a boat to reach the island. There is a locket on the island surrounded by a liquid that must be drunk in order to get at it. Dumbledore commands Harry to force him to drink it so they can get the locket (Horcrux). They are successful, but it leaves Dumbledore weak and it’s a struggle to return to Hogwarts. When they finally arrive back, they see that Hogwarts is under attack and run to join the fight between wizards and death eaters. Harry had been afraid of this and had enlisted his friends to keep watch, which helped it from being worse. But Harry and Dumbledore get cornered and ultimately Dumbledore gets betrayed by Snape, who kills him. In the aftermath, Snape (who reveals himself as the Half-Blood Prince) and Malfoy and most of the Death Eaters escape. There is a funeral for Dumbledore and Harry is left with sorrow and many questions, but he is also left with his friends who are supporting him. With resolve, Harry decides to break up with Ginny to keep her out of danger, return to his aunt and uncle’s where he’ll get his last bit of protection, and then plans to drop out of Hogwarts in order to find the rest of the Horcruxes. Harry also learns that the locket they worked so hard to get is a fake. Someone else had gotten the real one and left a decoy. It is with a heavy heart that the 6th book ends.

Summing it up: there was more challenging content in this book, but it was still a phenomenal book!

All the best, Abbey

 

Melody’s Key

 

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Melody’s Key

by Dallas Coryell

October 2016

Melody’s Key was suggested to me, and I quickly dove into the romance. I loved the characters, the setting, and the plot. I was immediately pulled into the story and I did not want to leave the characters when I finished the book. I’m still sad that I had to say good-bye. Coryell’s plot-line reminded me a lot of Colleen Hoover’s stories: from the meet cute, to the angst, to the resolution. Coryell has a gift of description (though sometimes it was a little much and could have been paired down . . . but that’s my only complaint). He brought each encounter and setting to life, which made a vivid story. I was captivated and so happy I picked up this book!

Tegan lives with her family in Lymington, England, where she helps them run their holiday home business: Lockwood Holiday. Their estate is enormous and they spend the summer hosting different groups (singles, families, etc), creating a beautiful getaway. Tegan is a gifted musician and artist, but has declined a college scholarship in order to help her family out (and really because they can’t afford to send her). She loves her life and is mostly content until they get a special guest for the summer. Mason is a hot, popular American singer. He needs a break (no one really knows why), so he asks to stay at Lockwood Holiday for the summer, and Tegan parent’s readily agree. Mason has no parents, so they pity him a little, and financially it is a huge help. Tegan gets mad because Mason is stuck up and she is furious that he is barging into her life, so she ignores him for a while. Before long it becomes obvious that he is anything but stuck up. Rather, he is kind, sweet, humble, and someone who has had a lot of pain in his life. Tegan starts to warm up to Mason and it doesn’t take long for them to completely fall for each other. They are truly a perfect fit in every way, having tons in common, nicknames for each other, and the ability to joke or simply be together in silence. It doesn’t hurt that Tegan’s family love Mason and her parents give them their blessing to be together. Side note: Tegan’s family, as well as many other characters in the book are funny, sweet, and make the book that much more dynamic. I don’t have the time/space to describe them well enough, but they are amazing. Spoilers: Tegan holds back a little because she was horribly hurt in high school by a boy she loved who took advantage of her and raped her. Mason is pivotal in her healing, but she is thrown completely off balance when his fiancée shows up at the estate. She corner’s Tegan and explains the Mason is liar and hurts innocent girls. He is engaged and has been all summer. He has a past filled with cutting and drugs and she is essential to his healing and future, and of course she is so sorry Mason was so hurtful. Tegan is shocked because it sounds nothing like the Mason she knows, but she believes it because of her past. She is heartbroken and furious and refuses to see Mason before he leaves for America. While most of the summer has been a dream, Tegan also dealt with a serious blow: her family is worse off financially than she thought and they are losing the estate at the end of the summer. Now the end of summer is here and Mason is gone and they are losing their home (to the family of the boy who raped her, to matters worse). Unbeknownst to Tegan, who is lost in her own misery, Mason has been at work to secure her and her family’s happiness. (His “fiancée” is the liar and a manipulative force that Mason was escaping from by staying at the estate all summer. She found him and is trying to get him back under her control, but Mason won’t have anything to do with it.) Mason has had lawyers on her parents’ case and they discovered fraud . . . which will take away all the power of the man ruining their lives (the dad of Tegan’s old boyfriend). Their estate was already in foreclosure, so Manson bought it and gave it back to Tegan’s parents. He also has a connection with the school Tegan got a scholarship to and arranges for her to keep the scholarship and pays 100% of her tuition/books. He also stipulates that Tegan should know nothing about it (but her dad tells her anyway). Tegan is elated and heartbroken all over again because she was wrong about Mason, who obviously wasn’t lying about loving her and wanting to be with her. She is beating herself up and convincing herself that she’s no good for Mason anyway because of not believing in him. Tegan reluctantly agrees to fly to America to attend college, and on the way she finally gets it: she loves Mason and she shouldn’t be punishing herself for what she did. Instead she needs to apologize and fight to get him in her life again. When she lands, she learns that Mason is giving a concert right there and after a serious of hilarious (and almost disastrous) events, she is able to get into the concert and find Mason. She spills everything and Mason forgives her and invites her out to the stage where they sing a song they wrote together. Mason has been struggling all summer about whether or not to sign a record deal that will give him millions, but force him to make music he hates. In the end, they decide to reject the offer and make music together (there’s already someone in London interested). Art school for Tegan will always be there, and in the meantime they can move back to England to make music and be near Tegan’s family. It’s such a perfect and beautiful ending!! Also, there is a whole side story about an antique key of Tegan’s that unlocks a box filled with tragic love letters from a couple in the 1940’s. She loses the key and Mason finds it and returns it to her once he realizes it’s hers.

Summing it up: I absolutely loved this book and I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Sad Animal Facts

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Sad Animal Facts

by Brooke Barker

October 2016

This cute, creative little non-fiction book was another recommendation and as much as it was “sad,” it was interesting, funny, and definitely a quick read. The book is divided into different groups like mammals and birds.Each page is a different illustration of an animal accompanied by a sad fact. It is very clever. At the end of the book  each fact is elaborated on so you can have a better understanding about each creature. The illustrations were hysterical and apropos to each fact. I am very impressed with Barker’s creativity and skill.

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Summing it up: I loved this book and highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

The Paris Key

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The Paris Key

by Juliet Blackwell

October 2016

Once again, I was enchanted by a title and drawn to read another book set in France. I loved it. Blackwell created a sweet, moving, complex story and kept me captivated from the very first page to the last. I especially loved her heroine. She was strong, but had to work through challenges to realize that. In the end she was able to find her way, and I liked how she wasn’t caught up in romance. It was refreshing to read a book about a woman’s journey that was not contingent on falling in love (even though I do love a good romance). I related to Genevieve as well, especially in the following quote about readers: “Genevieve polished off the last of the cheese and ham just as she finished her novel. She would have to go grocery shopping tomorrow. Not to mention book shopping. Like most readers, she felt nervous without a stack of novels at her disposal. In fact, she sometimes wondered: What did people do if they couldn’t read? On the other hand, maybe without those hours lost to novels she would have become a championship knitter, or a rock climber.” In sum, I was enchanted and naturally, now I want to move to France!

Genevieve is a soon to be divorced young woman who has lost her way. She decides to move to Paris and take over her late uncle’s locksmith shop in order to gain perspective. She is overwhelmed with the move to a new country, but feels at home at the same time. When her mother died, Genevieve was 14 and her father sent her to Paris to live with her aunt and uncle (her mother’s brother) and cousin for a time. Genevieve was extremely fond of her uncle who taught her how to pick locks and understand all that goes into being a locksmith. She couldn’t stay with them, which brought a lot of bitterness and regret that she didn’t return until her uncle had passed away and her aunt was suffering from Alzheimer’s. However, she is on good terms with her cousin, Catharine, who has welcomed her to live at her uncle’s shop/apartment. As Genevieve settles into the rhythm of Paris, buying fresh groceries, being befriended by neighbors, and ignoring her old life, she begins to stir up the past. Genevieve has always known that after her mother married and had her brother, she visited Paris for a while before returning home and having Genevieve. It was always referred to as her “last hurrah.” Afterwards, she was often despondent and later died of cancer. Genevieve as always felt abandoned by her mother and puzzled at the same time. Now, most everyone who knew her has passed away: her dad, her uncle, and her aunt simply can’t remember. Spoilers: One customer and friend, Philippe, knew her a little and gives Genevieve an old photograph from when her mother was in Paris. Beside her sits a handsome man. Genevieve knows nothing about him, but she starts suspecting that perhaps her mother wasn’t who she thought she was. While she’s repairing some locks at Philippe’s house, Genevieve uncovers a mysterious locked door deep in the basement. She explores with one of her new neighbors/friends, Killian. She recognizes the lock as one of her uncle’s specialties, and realizes that the key for the lock is the one she wears around her neck (it was her mothers). upon entering she finds herself in the catacombs and there is a secret room containing an old bed, clothes, and a newspaper from when her mother was in Paris. Before long, Genevieve is able to put things together: her mother was feeling trapped in her marriage and life and ran to Paris where she had an affair and got pregnant with Genevieve. The man she was in love with was a revolutionary and they ultimately could not be together, so she returned home. As Genevieve processes the truth she is ready to leave Paris and the bad memories behind (and she is having the worst time getting the paperwork processed to live and work in France). But before she can go her new friends rally around her and convince her to stay (and also pressure the inspector to sign all the paperwork). Finally, Genevieve accepts her new life and realizes that she is strong enough to face the truth and live her life without the ghost of her mother shadowing her. She wants to live in Paris and she wants to be a locksmith, so she is going to do it (or at least do everything in her power not to give up).

Summing it up: I loved this story. I love stories where the hero/heroine grows and evolves. It is beautiful, moving, and inspiring. I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey