I’ve got really behind with my blog posts recently, so I’m going to post a joint review of my last three books – which actually makes sense as they all shared the same theme. All three books had books at their heart and were set in a mobile library, a library and a bookshop respectively. I loved two of them, and hated one of them!
Mobile Library by David Whitehouse
Bobby has a pretty rubbish life. His mum has gone, his dad is an aggressive drunk, and he’s bullied at school. When at last he makes a friend, Sunny, that goes wrong too when Sunny ends up in hospital due entirely to his own crazy scheme to turn himself into a cyborg, inspired by the Terminator film.
But then into Bobby’s life stumble Val and her daughter Rosa, and this is when the adventures really begin as they set off on a crazy road trip in a stolen mobile library…
I loved this novel, which is basically a children’s adventure story but with some adult themes. It is quirky and a bit unbelievable at times, but it manages never to go too far into the realms of fantasy. I really liked the characters, particularly Bobby and Sunny who had such a touching friendship. I found the whole novel easy to read, and I was pretty much gripped from start to finish.
My rating: 9 out of 10
Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness by Jennifer Tseng
I was drawn to this novel by the pretty cover, and I also liked the sound of the story. Librarian Mayumi is in her early forties and leads an uneventful life – until a 17-year-old boy walks into the library one day and she feels a strong attraction towards him.
The novel is split into four parts, following the seasons, and by the end of part one it occurred to me that really nothing much had happened in the book! And in fact during part two, when things at last do start to happen, I still found the book was pretty dull. And from this point on I really struggled. Part of the problem for me was with the main character. She is married but has no relationship with her husband, and it’s never fully explained why. She also has a four-year-old who is really quite revolting. These two characters should have given us more of a rounded picture of Mayumi but they didn’t – instead we just had lots of thoughtful stuff but very little action.
There are also certain elements of the book that seemed very unbelievable, such as Mayumi’s friendship with the young boy’s mother, and the way she tells all her colleagues about her crush and none of them seem even mildly bothered by it.
I had to force myself to finish this book, and I did it almost to prove to myself that nothing much was going to happen – and it didn’t! It all seemed a bit pointless and I wish I hadn’t bothered!
My rating: 3 out of 10
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
A.J. is a grumpy bookstore owner. His wife has died, business is bad and he is generally in a huff all round. But then we see another side of A.J. when a two-year-old girl in abandoned in the bookstore, and he decides to adopt her.
A.J. is quite a hard character to pin down at first, and at the start of the novel I thought he was an older man but he is in fact in his late thirties when the story begins. He seems really cold and mean at the start but he soon softens and we get to know a bit more about him. The book is really sweet and touching, and I loved the characters, of which there are very few in the book. It’s easy to read, has a very light touch and it’s fun to read in the main. I also liked the descriptions at the start of each chapter of short stories that A.J. has selected to go in a compilation of stories for Maya. These give us little clues as to what is coming up next in the story, and this was cleverly done.
Despite its short length, we cover a lot of ground – probably around 15 years – over the course of the novel, and although it was good to find out what happened to everyone, it did occasionally feel a little bit rushed, and sometimes you would realise you had jumped ahead several years quite suddenly. But this is my only complaint really, as overall I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t surprised to find out that the author has previously written young adult novels, as this does share the same simplistic style that you sometimes find with this genre, and I will definitely be looking out for more of her books.
My rating: 9 out of 10