Book Reviews

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
June 24, 2014
Reviewed by: Jenny Clark

gabrielle zevin

“No Man is An Island; Every Book is a World,” so says the sign in front of Island Books on the fictional Alice Island. The title character, A.J., is a bookseller and recent widower. A.J. is rude to his customers, isolated from his friends, and has begun to dabble in alcoholism. One night while blackout drunk, an unknown thief steals his beloved $400,000 copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane. This theft spurs a series of events that change A.J.’s life irrevocably and show him the true meaning of the sign in front of his store.

What I found particularly appealing was the incorporation of A.J.’s favorite stories, with annotations, at the beginning of each chapter. Being a raging bibliophile (book lover), I have compiled a list of all the stories, books, and plays that have appeared in the book and you can access the reading list here.

Zevin, a Harvard graduate, is the author of five Young Adult books and three Adult books, including Margarettown and Elsewhere. Zevin received nominations for both a Quill award and an Independent Spirit Award and won the Borders Original Voices Award. Elsewhere was chosen as a selection for the Barnes and Noble Book Club and made the Carnegie long list. 


The Color Master: Stories by Aimee Bender
December 18, 2013
Reviewed by: Jenny Clark

Aimee Bender’s new collection of 15 short stories has been described as adult themed fairy tales. The stories feel like dream sequences, alternate realities that end before you had a chance to fully understand what was happening. Each story had a unique cast of characters and Bender is able to get you hooked, sometimes using only 2 pages. The stand out story was the title story, in which the Color Master trains her new apprentice in the art of dying clothing using natural elements. The story is a prelude to Perrault’s Cinderella-like fairy tale, “Donkey Skin.”

The book would be perfect for someone who is looking for a quick read deeply set in fantasy. Keep in mind that this book is not for the faint of heart, there are several stories that feature strong sexual themes and violence.

Bender is also the author of the novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and the collections Willful Creatures and The Girl in the Flammable Skirt.