ARC REVIEW: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore – by Matthew Sullivan @arrowpublishing

Title: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore
Author: Matthew Sullivan

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: August 24th 2017
Publisher: Cornerstone
Finished reading: August 15th 2017
Pages: 336

“I’ve begun to think of it as more graveyard than library. End of the line, you know. Where book-of-the-month club comes to die.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Cornerstone in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I always have a weak spot for any book with bookish references or a story that is at least partially set in a bookstore. So as you can imagine, basically Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore had me at the title. This book has been on my list of most anticipated releases ever since I first heard about for it and I’ve been looking forward to read it for ages now. And I can tell you one thing: this novel by Matthew Sullivan doesn’t disappoint. Or more accurately, I enjoyed every single page of this ‘contemporary puzzle and murder mystery in one’. Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore isn’t just another bookish book and actually presents two different mysteries to solve. The first is related to the suicide of one of the bookshop patrons and the other to what happened to one of the clerks twenty years ago. The plot is intriguing and well developed; the plot twists and revelations well balanced and I enjoyed solving the puzzles along with the characters. This book definitely has some surprises in store! The writing style had me hooked from the very first page and was both highly enjoyable, engaging and made it very hard to stop reading before reaching the final page. The bookish references are a true delight for any booklover and I love the role books play in this story in general. The mystery is also well done and there were definitely things I didn’t see coming. You might start wondering about coincidences and some things seem pretty ‘convenient’, but I personally didn’t care. Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore will go straight to my list of favorites!

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Lydia Smith works as a clerk at the Bright Ideas Bookstore and tries to live a quiet life among her books and the BookFrogs; the regulars who spend their days in the bookstore browsing its shelves. But then one of the BookFrogs, Joey Molina, kills himself in the bookstore. Lydia was Joey’s favorite bookseller and she inherited his meager possessions… And when Lydia flips through his books, she discovers he has destroyed them in a way that is both intriguing and disturbing. Why did Joey do this and what does it mean? Did he want to leave her a message?

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I have been looking forward to this title for a while now and it was without doubt just as good or even better than hoped. I had such a great time reading Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore and the two mysteries/puzzles that are included are both fascinating and well executed. The bookish elements are a true delight and I had a great time discovering more about Joey and Lydia, their past and their development. The writing is wonderful as well and made me fly through the pages… All in all I can highly recommend this title.


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BOOK REVIEW: Love May Fail – by Matthew Quick

Title: Love May Fail
Author: Matthew Quick

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
First published: June 4th 2015
Publisher: Harper
Finished reading: July 31st 2017
Pages: 419

“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”

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I liked Matthew Quick‘s unconventional writing style and characters in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, so when I was desperately looking for something different I turned to his work again. I found a copy of Love May Fail on my shelves and decided to pick it up; and I definitely got what I was looking for. This book is by no means conventional! I’m still not sure what to make of this book even days after finishing it. There were things/elements I liked or appreciated and there were others I wasn’t so sure about, but what is true that Love May Fail is different. Both the writing style and tone are very unconventional, blunt, brutally honest but also refreshing. That said, there was also a lot of swearing and negativity involved… So this unique feel can go both ways. The same thing goes for the characters. Most of them earn points for brutal honesty, uniqueness and having that ‘spark’, but I don’t think I actually liked them. Portia had all those elements (she definitely has balls), but somehow I never actually warmed up to her. It is true though that at least she was able to provoke strong emotions, even if those were mostly negative. I couldn’t stand Mr. Vernon though. What is true though is that important themes as mental illness, depression, suicide, midlife crisis and hoarding play an important role in the story and seems to be portrayed quite realistically. Matthew Quick isn’t afraid to step on a few toes and says things as they are in a blunt and brutally honest way. And I don’t think I have ever read about a hoarder before! In short I can applaude the diversity. I also liked the novel writing bits and insight in the publishing world. Still, I can’t say I actually loved reading Love May Fail. It won’t make it to my favorites list, but there is no doubt there is something about this story.

A little warning: don’t read Love May Fail if you are sensitive to darker themes, adult content and swearing.

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After Portia Kane finds her pornographer husband cheating on her with a girl half her age, she decides she has had enough. She is having a meltdown; escapes her fabulous life in Florida and then returns to her mother’s house in South Jersey. There she realizes things in her hometown haven’t changed all that much and she will have to face the memories of her unhappy childhood. Her mother is still a hoarder and Portia doesn’t know how to help her get better… So when she finds out what happened to her favorite English teacher, she decides to do something to help him instead. But how to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped in the first place?

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If you are looking for something different, there is no doubt that Love May Fail will deliver. There is nothing conventional about this story and I guess it is kind of refreshing. Love May Fail won’t be for everyone since it has a lot of trigger warnings for darker themes, adult content and swearing, but I’m sure the right person will appreciate the brutal honesty and blunt, raw and ‘out there’ feel of it all. I personally ended up having mixed thoughts about this one, but I do believe this book can go either way.


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ARC REVIEW: The Lost Book Of The Grail – by Charlie Lovett

Title: The Lost Book Of The Grail
Author: Charlie Lovett

Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: February 28th 2017
Publisher: Viking
Finished reading: July 26th 2017 
Pages: 336

“The library smelled substantial; it smelled of both life and death. The air was stale and still and Arthur felt the atmosphere of the place envelop him. He was home.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Viking in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I admit I have a weird obsession with any title that has the word ‘book’ in it, so one look at the cover of The Lost Book Of The Grail and I was sold. Any lover of books about books and historical mysteries will be intrigued by the blurb of this story by Charlie Lovett. Trust me, I was one of them… And I have been looking forward to read it for a while now. That’s why I was slightly disappointed to find myself having mixed feelings about The Lost Book Of The Grail instead. On one hand, there were quite a few things I did love about this book. First of all, there are many many bookish references, quotes and descriptions that will appeal to any bookworm. The smell of books, the library, the old manuscripts… I could just imagine being there in Barchester myself just by reading the detailed descriptions and I always love when that happens. I also really liked the idea behind this story and the mystery around the manuscript and the history of Barchester and its secrets is intriguing. BUT. Unfortunately, the pace is slower than a sleeping snail and I had a really hard time to stay focused and keep reading despite the fascinating history. In fact, the plot actually feels pretty chaotic with the unorganized flashbacks, guidebook quotes and random quotes from other books. I admit it does add an original touch, but it also slowed down the already slow pace even more and made the story flow considerably less and feel quite haltered. Another problem I encountered myself with were the characters. To be honest, I was never able to warm up to them and they mostly felt like cliches. The ‘old school’ Arthur and ‘modern’ Bethany have textbook clashing views on anything bookish and I didn’t feel they were inspiring. Also, I could have done without the romance…  It didn’t add anything substantial to the story and only managed to make me enjoy the final part of The Lost Book Of The Grail even less. Another thing I struggled with is that the story, for being about a lost manuscript and the hunt to unravel the mystery before it’s too late, was actually quite uneventful and lacked suspense. I was really surprised by this, because when I read the blurb I thought their quest was going to be a whole lot more exciting. Oh well, we can’t like them all, can we?

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Arthur Prescott works as an English professor in the modern buildings of the University of Barchester, but he feels more at home surrounded by the ancient books and manuscripts on the Barchester Cathedral library. He spends most of his free time there, researching his unfinished guidebook to the medieval cathedral… Although his secret obsession with the Holy Grail is never completely leaves his mind. When an American woman barges into his sanctuary with the task of digitizing the manuscripts, Arthur is appalled. But Bethany doesn’t seem to be what she appears to be and she turns out to be a fellow Grail fanatic… And soon she will join Arthur in a quest to find a missing manuscript with the story of the cathedral’s founder.

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I really wanted to like The Lost Book Of The Grail and there were certain elements I did enjoy very much. The history of Barchester and its secrets is fascinating and I’m sure many will appreciate the bookish quotes and references. The pace is incredibly slow though and the plot feels both a bit chaotic and lacks action. I also had problems connecting to the characters and felt they lacked character development or at least originality. Such a shame!


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ARC REVIEW: Words In Deep Blue – by Cath Crowley @CathCrowley

Title: Words In Deep Blue
Author: Cath Crowley

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: June 6th 2017
Publisher: Knopf Books For Young Readers
Finished reading:  May 22nd 2017
Pages: 288

“There should be a disconnect button you can push when someone leaves: you’ve fucked me over; therefore I no longer love you. I’m not asking for the button to be connected to an ejector seat that removes them from the universe, just one small button that removes them from your heart.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Knopf Books For Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve actually just realized this is book number 600 since I started this blog! I still can’t wrap my head around that number… And such a wonderful story to reach that mark with as well. Words In Deep Blue has the most gorgeous cover and is a YA contemporary romance story that partly takes place in a bookshop. The bookshop isn’t just a setting though; both the store and the books play a significant role in the story. I love the idea behind the Letter Library and people being able to communicate through letters left in those books. These letters being included in between chapters were a really nice touch and made Words In Deep Blue that much more unique. It isn’t just another love story either as more serious themes as death, grief and loss are included as well. The characters are well developed and it’s interesting to see how they evolve, although I do have to say I wasn’t completely charmed by them. It’s probably because of the multiple love triangles, but some of their behavior could get a little annoying after a while. Though it might just be me being allergic to love triangles; I’m sure contemporary romance fans will not be bothered be it. This was also the only negative thing I could find about this story and it didn’t prevent me from flying through the pages and finishing it in less than a day. A very enjoyable read for sure and I loved the bookish references! It’s without doubt a little gem.

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Rachel and Henry have been best friends for years and during all that time she has never told Henry she has a crush on him. She regrets that decision when he lays his eyes on someone else, and decides to tuck a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop the day before she moved away. Henry never showed up and the hurt Rachel lost contact with him over time… But now she is back in town and somehow working in the same bookshop her heart was broken. And that’s not the only bad thing that happened in her life during her time away…

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I don’t want to reveal to much of the plot to avoid spoilers, but it’s without doubt a wonderful story with enjoyable prose. Words In Deep Blue reads superfast and shows a wide variety of emotions in a realistic way. I personally wasn’t happy with the multiple love triangles and some of the romance, but I loved the idea behind the Letter Library and enjoyed seeing how the characters evolved over time. Words In Deep Blue is perfect of YA contemporary romance fans!


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BOOK REVIEW: The Invisible Library – by Genevieve Cogman

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Title: The Invisible Library
(The Invisible Library #1)
Author: Genevieve Cogman

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Mystery
First published: January 15th 2015
Publisher: Tor UK
Finished reading: March 4th 2017
Pages: 337

“She was a Librarian, and the deepest, most fundamental part of her life involved a love of books. Right now, she wanted nothing more than to shut the rest of the world out and have nothing to worry about except the next page of whatever she was reading,”

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I actually picked up this title on a whim since I needed a break from my ARCs and didn’t realize this was actually the first book of a series. Oops?! The title spoke to me when I was browsing my kindle, and I guess I was in the mood for a book about books. What I didn’t realize either is that The Invisible Library is actually a full blown science fiction/fantasy read stuffed with magic and mythical creatures like vampires, fae, werewolves and dragons. Definitely a surprise! The worldbuilding is without doubt interesting and I loved the idea behind the Librarians and Language, but in general the inclusion of so many different elements ended up feeling a bit chaotic. I also felt the many science fiction/steampunk and fantasy elements actually distracted from the originial Library idea and in a way it’s a shame… Because those descriptions are basically every booklover’s dream. The pace in The Invisible Library is also quite slow, making it harder to properly enjoy the story. I’m not saying this book actually is a bad read, but I did feel it didn’t reach its full potential and I wish the Library elements would have played a bigger role. I wasn’t completely sure about all the characters either; while I liked Kai and Vale, Irene didn’t manage to convince me. I will most likely still read the sequel at some point though to see if the Library itself gets more attention in that one.

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Irene is a Librarian and works for the mysterious Library, which harvests books from different realities. It’s her job to find rare copies of those books no matter what, and she is about to start a new mission. But she won’t be going alone this time… Her supervisor sends her to an alternative London along with Kai so he can get some field experience. This normally means easy missions, so Irene is surprised when she finds out that their book is actually potentially dangerous. And even worse: when they arrive, it’s already been stolen… And it won’t be easy to get it back, especially since this particular alternative London is also chaos-infested. An impossible mission or simply a challenge?

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I can’t deny The Invisible Library has a lot of potential and I loved the Library/Language elements, but I felt there were just too many different elements stuffed into one story to make sense. The Library and its magic, mythical creatures, science fiction/steampunk, detective, secret societies, an evil villain… All those elements sound great separately, but when they are all thrown together they start to distract from what is essentially the most original part of the plot. All in all not a bad read, but not as good as I was hoping for.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Reader On The 6.27 – by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

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Title: The Reader On The 6.27
Author: Jean-Paul Didierlaurent
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
First published: May 5th 2014
Finished reading: May 12th 2016
Pages: 256
(Originally written in French: “Le liseur du 6h27”)
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“For all those fellow commuters, he was the reader, the bizarre character who each weekday would read out, in a loud, clear voice, from the handful of pages he extracted from his briefcase.”

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I picked up my copy of The Reader On The 6.27 on a whim after I saw it mentioned somewhere on a list of books about books. I normally prefer reading the story in its original language, but since my French is a little (read: a lot!) rusty I had no choice but read the English translation. I still wish I would have been able to read Jean-Paul Didierlaurent‘s French prose, but that doesn’t take away this was one excellent story. It is true there isn’t that much of a plot to speak of, but that only brings more attention to the excellent prose. Part of the story almost felt like Fahrenheit 451 (especially the book destroying machine called ‘The Thing’ and the factory in general), but this novel is mostly something completely different that will appeal to most true book lovers out there. The main character Guylain Vignolles hates his job at the book pulping factory and decides to defy the system in his own small way by saving a few random book pages stuck in the bottom of the machine every day. Then every morning on his commute to the factory, he actually reads those random pages out loud to the other passengers! Such an inspiring idea… His quest to find the owner of the usb stick he finds on the train is quite entertaining to read as well, not to mention the random pages, multiple alexandrines and charm of the characters themselves. The Reader On The 6.27 is in one word ‘magnifique‘! Definitely worth reading if you are looking for something different and beautifully written.

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Guylain Vignolles doesn’t exactly have an exciting life. He practically doesn’t have any friends, shares his small appartment with his goldfish and hates his job at the book pulping factory to an extent that even his own mother doesn’t know how he really earns his money. The only thing he looks forward to on his seemingly endless days are his journeys on the 6.27 train. Each morning on his commute to the factory, Guylain opens his case, takes out a few pages he rescued himself from the book pulping machine he calls The Thing the day before and starts reciting aloud the words on those random pages. He doesn’t even make contact with the other passengers, but this daily escape from his reality helps him stay sane. Then one day Guylain finds an abandoned usb stick on the train. He tries to figure out who the owner is, but the only file on it is a diary without a full name or return address… Guylain falls in love with the voice of the young author Julie, and is determined to find her .

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To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first heard about The Reader On The 6.27, but I was more than pleasantly surprised with what I’ve found. This is without doubt a charming story with interesting characters, beautiful prose, a fast pace and many many bookish references. The random pages, diary entries and alexandrines didn’t distract at all from the main story and actually made me enjoy this book more. Recommended!

BOOK REVIEW: The Bookshop Book – by Jen Campbell

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Title: The Bookshop Book
Author: Jen Campbell
Genre: Non Fiction, Books About Books, Contemporary
First published: October 2nd 2014
Finished reading: March 27th 2016
Pages: 273
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“Because whether we’re in the middle of the desert or in the heart of a city, or the top of a mountain or on an underground train: having good stories to keep us company means the whole world.”

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up my copy of The Bookshop Book, but since I have a weakness for books about books I decided to give it a go. This book written by Jen Campbell is a non fiction read about bookshops all over the world. It does read slow at points, but The Bookshop Book is by no means boring or dense. The author basically takes you on a worldwide bookshop tour, but the bookshop descriptions are mixed up with author interviews, random facts and other interesting bookshop stories that definitely make it worth reading. If you love wandering around in bookshops, spending time browsing for that perfect new or secondhand book, you will probably enjoy The Bookshop Book. I know I did: I loved reading about all those amazing-sounding bookshops all over the world, although it really made me wish I could open my own bookshop one day…And it also makes for a great excuse to travel more to visit all those bookshops mentioned.

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Bookshops aren’t just buildings where books are sold; every bookshop has its own story and an unique way of connecting with their customers and the books they sell. Some bookshop decide to sell their books in original locations, other specialize in a certain genre or simply sell what they enjoy reading themselves. What do they have in common? Their love for books they want to share with you. The Bookshop Book is full of stories about the people behind the bookshops, author interviews, random bookish facts and other bits anyone who enjoys bookshops will be able to relate to. From books being sold inside barns, disused factories, boats and buses to a book tank and a book vending machine… They all have a place in this story. It’s a journey across six continents visiting over three hundred wonderful bookshops.

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The Bookshop Book is meant for anyone who loves visiting bookshops wherever they go and like to read about the people behind the books. It’s not an actual story with a plot and more a mix of random facts and bookshop stories, but really interesting anyway. It might read a bit slow at points, but most of the stories and bookshops are really fascinating. I can honestly say this book made me wish I could travel the world visiting all those places Jen Campbell mentioned, and maybe open my own bookshop one day… Recommended if you like the genre.