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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A whimsical dream of a book for book lovers
This is a story all about a bookshop owner, a young bookworm, and a book seller. Each chapter opens with a quote from one of the bookshop owner's favourite books. You may get the impression that this book is all about books. You'd be right.

If you're still reading, then that probably means you're a bit of a book lover too.

This is a story of how...
Published 14 months ago by K. J. Noyes

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice read
A relaxing read. The whole story just flowed getting faster towards the end bringing all lose ends together well. The plot was interesting.
Published 3 months ago by Daniela Chichester Kaner


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A whimsical dream of a book for book lovers, 13 Mar. 2014
By 
K. J. Noyes "Katy Noyes" (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This is a story all about a bookshop owner, a young bookworm, and a book seller. Each chapter opens with a quote from one of the bookshop owner's favourite books. You may get the impression that this book is all about books. You'd be right.

If you're still reading, then that probably means you're a bit of a book lover too.

This is a story of how books can affect people's lives. Each character is affected by the printed word. And it's also a love story (and not just about a love of books!).

A.J.Fikry sells books, in a bookshop on an island. Disheartened since the premature death of his beloved wife, he treats publisher's agent Amelia with initial rudeness when she first comes to discuss her latest new titles. But a sudden surprising event changes Fikry's outlook, hopes and priorities for good, and Island Books starts to change, and change people's lives with it.

I know that's an incredibly brief summary, but I wouldn't want to spoil the story for anyone. There may be nothing new under the sun, and nothing here that hasn't been written before, but Zevin has created a true and moving tribute to the printed book that warmed me to read. Someone else knows how I feel about books and reading - each character portrays different aspects of the reader. We see begrudging readers become book club advocates, children growing up among their favourite characters, books bringing people together.

This is one you'll race through, then wish you'd taken your time over. It's bittersweet, uplifting and a must for any lover of literature.

Review of a Netgalley advance copy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Shaggy Dog Story, With Some Bite, 29 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry (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 butterdish. 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, is 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars delightful read, 26 Aug. 2014
By 
Cloggie Downunder (Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry (Hardcover)
The Collected Works of A.J.Fikry (aka The Storied Life of A.J.Fikry) is the fifth stand-alone novel by American author, Gabrielle Zevin. Alice Island, a New England summer destination requiring bus and ferry travel, boasts a main street book store. Island Books is owned by recent widower, A.J.Fikry, an opinionated, often cranky man in his late thirties with a (self-described) porcupine heart. Since the unfortunate accidental death of his beloved wife, his plan has been to drink himself to death and drive his business to ruin. This plan is derailed by three occurrences: thirty-six-year-old sales representative for Knightley Press, Amelia Loman makes her first visit to Island Books to present the publisher’s Winter List (and is treated rather shabbily by A.J.); A.J.’s escape valve, a rare and valuable edition of Tamerlane, a collection of poems by Edgar Allan Poe, is stolen; and a bright two-year-old girl named Maya is left in his bookstore. Against all odds, A.J. finds himself (with frequent help from Google and occasional input from the Island’s residents) bringing up a young girl. Zevin has given the reader characters who are appealing despite their flaws, or perhaps because of them. The story has an element of mystery and the plot has a few unexpected twists. Each chapter is prefaced with a paragraph of A.J.’s comments for Maya about a certain literary work: advice for writing and advice for life. It contains many words of wisdom, making it, as others have said, a very quotable book: “Sometimes books don’t find us until the right time” and “We are not quite novels. We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works” will resonate with many readers. This book is filled with lightness and dark, with laugh-out-loud moments and lines that will have the most cynical reader choking up. It is a book for anyone who loves to read or loves book stores, and lovers of fine literature will be especially captivated. This delightful read is one of those books that is almost impossible to put down and most readers will be sorry to reach the end. A keeper.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book of two halves, 30 July 2014
By 
Julia Flyte - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry (Hardcover)
AJ Fikry runs a bookstore on a small island off Hyannis Port. His beloved wife died some 18 months earlier and he has become increasingly rude, bitter and stick in his ways. Amelia is a book rep who visits him to present her company's new book releases. Their initial meeting is a disaster and they will retain a polite but not very friendly relationship for some time afterwards. But then AJ finds a toddler abandoned in his bookstore and gradually his outlook on life changes as he starts finding things to live for.

I adored the first half of this book. It is light hearted and occasionally laugh out loud funny - similar in style to A Man Called Ove. I did notice that the author had a tendency of resolving plot issues by just fast forwarding in time, which was somewhat irritating, but overall the charm carried the book along nicely. I particularly liked Lambiase, the local policeman who becomes a reader.

But then, around the halfway mark, things seem to come to a natural conclusion and somehow the second half of the book doesn't work so well. It starts with the death of a (minor) character - a twist that somehow feels out of step with the book thus far. Some more serious issues start to be presented, but they feel out of step with the frothy tone and characters that we have become familiar with. I could tell that I was meant to be crying but I only felt mildly moved.

I still liked this book but for me it was a book of two halves and I much preferred the first half to the second.

In the US, this book is entitled "The Storied Life of AJ Fikry".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reader, you will be enchanted., 23 Jun. 2014
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry (Hardcover)
A recent set of holiday reading delivered up three different but equally grumpy, unfulfilled male American protagonists. The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair (great title, gruesome writing, abandoned on outward journey), To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (the latest offering from a fine writer, Joshua Ferris, about an atheist dentist who discovers a religion for doubters) and this, The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry - total enchantment and bliss.

This is a book that I believe will appeal to all lovers of reading. It's about a 40-something widower who runs a bookshop on an island called Alice near Hyannis in Massachusetts. He is grumpy about more or less everything but he is particularly grumpy about what his customers choose to read. The sign over the door reads: "Island Books. Alice Island's Exclusive Provider of Fine Literary Content since 1999. 'No Man is an Island; Every Book is a World'" - though he himself has become something of an emotionally isolated island.

Each chapter commences with a brief recommendation of a short story for a character called Maya. As the story progresses, we learn who Maya is and why AJ is writing these recommendations for her. We also meet several engaging characters along the way, notably Amelia, a "dandelion" of a young woman who is an intuitive book rep keenly looking for Mr Right as well as decent orders, and Lambiase, the empathetic local police chief who late in life discovers the value of a good read.

One or two plot points are rather too neatly resolved (albeit deeply satisfying for the reader) and Gabrielle Zevin's writing is absolutely captivating - funny, sad, wry, poignant, perfect. Could this be my book of the year? It was certainly my book of the holiday!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book has everything!, 25 May 2014
By 
S. V. Rhodes "Sheila, bibliophile" (Letchworth Garden City) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry (Hardcover)
I loved this book so much that a few days later I read it again - partly because it made me laugh and cry, and partly because I wanted to remember all the book recommendations in it. Many of them are short stories, which is the favourite genre of the bookseller at the centre of the story, A.J. He is such an honest, likeable character; a bit grumpy sometimes but with a gift for friendship. He struggles with life after losing his young wife in a driving accident, but then a baby is left one evening in his bookstore who changes his life: he adopts her, and it is very moving seeing what a good Dad he becomes. Every character is very real, the local cop, the sister-in-law, and the inelegant and witty rep who A.J. eventually falls for after knowing her for four years!

They are all people you would like to meet, and you certainly wish that you could visit Island Books, where you could have a terrific book conversation. For someone who has had fun working in several bookshops over the years, this was a treat. Delightfully charming . . . I would give it six stars if I could.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Collected Works of AJ Fikry, 31 Mar. 2014
This review is from: The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry (Hardcover)
Acerbic bookseller A.J. Fikry is having an extremely bad time of it – his wife (and the one in the couple that people actually like) has recently died in a car accident, his bookshop is failing rapidly, and his valuable first edition (and sole retirement fund) of Poe’s Tamerlane has been stolen. Fortunately, change is on the horizon as Fikry gets to know (and only slightly repels) a new publisher’s rep before later in the day finding a baby girl abandoned in his shop. The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry is a charming tale about the greatness of books and the transformative powers of love. It’s a funny, moving, intriguing and, OK, a little implausible in places story that will captivate booklovers and booksellers alike.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I'd love to have Island Books as my bookstore, 28 July 2014
By 
This review is from: The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry (Hardcover)
I absolutely adored Gabrielle Zevin's latest novel, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry! Although murder and mayhem is my favourite genre to read, I need to read a feel good story every so often. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a five star feel good!

A.J. is the curmudgeonly owner of Island Books. The sign above the door also includes: "No man is an island: every book is a world."

A.J. has made himself into an island though. His wife has died and so has a part of A.J. He doesn't like people and he drinks too much. A valuable book that was to have funded his retirement has been stolen - and it wasn't insured. What does life have left to offer A.J.? What does A.J. have left to offer to the world? Not much it seems, until the day a unusual 'package' is left in the bookstore.....And so begins a new chapter of life for A.J. Fikry....

Now, I have no desire to spoil this book for potential readers, so suffice to say, there is romance, heartbreak, heartwarming, drama, humour and much, much more contained within the pages of A.J.'s life. I was completely caught up in Zevin's wonderful story and spent most of one Sunday on Alice Island.

Zevin has created such a wonderful cast of characters, each with a unique voice and their own story. A.J.'s wry comments and gruff attitude belie a gentle, caring soul. There is a wonderful cast of supporting characters as well. Best supporting goes to Police Chief Lambiese whose slow, easy manner hides an astute mind. I would love to attend the Chief's Choice book club. (with a focus on crime writers)

The literary references, the bookseller and publisher rep comments and the descriptions of the bookstore will fill any booklover or bookseller with delight. I wanted to live in the little apartment above Island Books and hang out in the store below. Definitely a recommended read, guaranteed to warm the heart and soul.

I had a quick listen to the audiobook version as well. Scott Brick (one of my favourites) is the reader and I thought his interpretation was spot on.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely read, 2 July 2014
By 
Brida "izumi" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry (Hardcover)
THE COLLECTED WORKS OF A.J. FIKRY is a story about a bookseller, a bookshop owner and an abandoned child. But it is also a story about books - why people love them, dedicate their lives to them and sometimes how a book can change someone's life. All of the characters within this story are flawed; they have features which you will like but they also have features which will make you recoil from them.
Some readers may feel that this novel is too slow, that not much really happens. However, this is just not true. At the very beginning of the story, we meet A.J. and Amelia - the shop owner and the bookseller. A.J. has lost his wife and is cranky; he comes across as snobbish (especially about literature) and cynical, behind the times and reluctant to change. Amelia comes across as a bit of a nerd/ hippy; she loves literature and her job, she is pretty but dresses modestly. After a disastrous first meeting, A.J. suffers the theft of his rare book, "Tamerlane" by Poe, and not long after discovers that someone has abandoned a young girl in his shop, asking him to take care of her.

That is a very brief synopsis - obviously there are many other elements to the novel to flesh it out. All the way through, the world of books and literature tie everyone together. And, whilst some readers may feel that this novel is 'tame' and pedestrian, I would argue that it is piqued at just the right pitch. Yes, it is easy reading but it also touches on painful areas of life. In places, it is actually quite poignant.

For any true lover of literature, THE COLLECTED WORKS OF A.J. FIKRY should be an absolute delight. As A.J. himself declares, people lie all the time about love and politics; if you really want to get to know someone, ask them what their favourite book is. Their answer should tell you everything you need to know.
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5.0 out of 5 stars As finely balanced as a rock-balancing sculpture on a beach, 7 Jun. 2014
This review is from: The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry (Hardcover)
A thoroughly enjoyable, deftly crafted, contemporary tale of the ups and downs in the life of a man who owns and runs an independent bookshop on an island. Because the characters who inhabit the bookshop (in one sense or another) are book lovers, some of their conversations (in one sense or another) are about books. So one can glean information about reading, writing, publishing, and book selling (and even book reviewing, oh dear) – if one cares to, one aspect of Gabrielle Zevin’s style being the “show, not tell” technique. This style also serves to protect the squeamish from gory detail when bad things happen. Despite her mastery of “show, not tell”, Zevin cleverly gets one of her writer characters to deride this technique. Nice touch.

It’s hard to categorise this work. The protagonist finds love, but it’s not a romance novel. A crime is committed, but it’s not a crime novel. There are funny moments, but it’s not a comedy. There are tragic moments, but it’s not a tragedy. It’s like life; cross-genre stuff happens, and the people involved are likeable and flawed at the same time.

In retrospect, there’s something pleasing but puzzling about the pace. Friendships develop, and other situations unfold, over a period of years, giving one a sense of leisurely accompanying A.J. through totally different phases of his life. But it’s not a long novel, so how can the author have found enough space for the pace? How did she do that?

I didn’t want “The Collected Works” to end but found the ending very satisfying. The loose ends are tied up, the reason for the title of the book becomes clear, and the tail end of the story swishes its own head.

Another good thing about this book is that it has left me keen to read some of the books and stories mentioned in it.

Everything about this novel is as finely balanced as a rock-balancing sculpture on a beach.
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The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry
The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (Hardcover - 13 Mar. 2014)
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