As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

April 27, 2015

ELEPHANT COMPANY by Vicki Constantine Croke, 2014


The remarkable story of James Howard “Billy” Williams, whose uncanny rapport with the world’s largest land animals transformed him from a carefree young man into the charismatic war hero known as Elephant Bill. Part biography, part war epic, and part wildlife adventure, Elephant Company is an inspirational narrative that illuminates a little-known chapter in the annals of wartime heroism. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Katie Rice - Mama

This book is 'real-life Tarzan'.  Billy Williams went to Burma in the 1920's for work.  He became an elephant expert.  He was their teacher, doctor, advocate and friend.  Throughout his life he interacts with them and learns from them.  He experiences a career, a family, and even war while maintaining a friendship with these animals.

Elephants are incredible.  Did you know they only sleep two to three hours each day?  With all the little narratives from William's life there are fascinating things to learn about elephants.  They take on a super-human role.  This is the sort of book an animal lover loves.

I could put ELEPHANT COMPANY down, and come back to a few days later and still be impressed with the world.  It's an adventure that made me think about my own real-life adventures and how I treat the people and living creatures around me.

Market: Nonfiction for adults, though an easy read
Language: Maybe a couple naughty words
Sensuality: Sexuality is talked about, though no graphic scenes
Violence: There is a war.  The most graphic scene is when Williams helps to clean out a bloated elephant (yuck, right?)
Mature Themes: war, bachelorhood, racial inequality (underlying)

April 20, 2015

MIDWINTERBLOOD by Marcus Sedgwick, 2011

In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumour has it that no one ages and no children are born, a visiting journalist, Eric Seven, and a young local woman known as Merle are ritually slain. Their deaths echo a moment ten centuries before, when, in the dark of the moon, a king was slain, tragically torn from his queen. Their souls search to be reunited, and as mother and son, artist and child, forbidden lovers, victims of a vampire they come close to finding what they've lost. In a novel comprising seven parts, each influenced by a moon - the flower moon, the harvest moon, the hunter's moon, the blood moon - this is the story of Eric and Merle whose souls have been searching for each other since their untimely parting. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Jessica Day George: author and Bookshop Talk host

This was the 2014 Printz Award Winner, and I had never heard of it. Several other books had been bandied about as possible candidates, and when I heard this one announced my reaction was, basically, “What?” But I was in a mood to do some online shopping, so I went ahead and ordered all the award winners, but actually preordered this one in paperback, because I quite frankly hated the cover, and the soon-to-be-released paperback had a great cover. So I went on with my life and then a few weeks later my book came with its fancy new cover with a shiny gold medal sticker on it, and I thought, Well, isn’t that nice?

Then I read it.

And my reaction was, once again, “What?” Only it was because I was thinking, What are people thinking, not reading this book? Why is everyone not raving about this book? MIDWINTERBLOOD is amazing! It’s actually seven books, or stories, in one. Each story is set in a different time and is a different style. There’s future sci fi, WWII thriller, gothic horror, even a vampire story, but they all tie together as the same souls are born and reborn, and try to find each other. Who were they, originally? Why were they separated? The stories go back in time until the last story, which is also the first, which may have been my favorite, though I loved them all. The book is beautifully written, I mean, just beautiful. Absolutely a work of art. And so gripping that I after I finished it I realized that I had been sitting in an awkward position on the couch for so long one of my knees had locked up, and I had one shoe on and one off… I just couldn’t stop! If I ever made a movie, it would be based on this book. I want to see it done with a small cast, less than a dozen actors, and they’d all rotate around to the different parts in each story. Read it, you’ll see what I mean!

Market: YA, but really anyone
Language: mild
Sensuality: mild
Violence: mild
Adult themes: Human sacrifice. Ghosts. Vampires. Hallucinogens. None of this is graphic.

April 13, 2015

THE STORY KEEPER by Lisa Wingate, 2014


When successful New York editor Jen Gibbs discovers a decaying slush-pile manuscript on her desk, she has no idea that the story of Sarra, a young mixed-race woman trapped in Appalachia at the turn of the twentieth century, will both take her on a journey and change her forever. Happy with her life in the city, and at the top of her career with a new job at Vida House Publishing, Jen has left her Appalachian past and twisted family ties far behind. But the search for the rest of the manuscript, and Jen's suspicions about the identity of its unnamed author, will draw her into a mystery that leads back to the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains . . . and quite possibly through the doors she thought she had closed forever. (Goodreads)

Review by Griperang

I am so glad that I got picked as one of the sisters in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Book by Lisa. THE STORY KEEPER was every bit as good as the first book that I read by her (The Prayer Box). The fact that there was a story within a story in this book is an added bonus in my opinion. Jen is such a strong character in this book, she new she needed to leave home at a young age to get away from her past but with the drop of manuscript on her desk she finds the past is not as far away as it seemed. I enjoyed meeting some other characters along the way like sweet Hannanh - I found myself feeling sorry for her and Evan - who is not who he seems at the beginning. I did not care for Jen's dad or sister Mirah as they just did not seem nice to me but then again it is a whole different world where they live and how they choose to survive. There is a mystery in this book and some twists that kept me turning the pages long into the night. I must admit that I read a little over half of this book in one day and I don't do that often. I give this book 5 stars and would recommend it to everyone.

Market: Adult Fiction
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Violence: None
Mature Themes: Depression

April 6, 2015

A POTION TO DIE FOR by Heather Blake, 2013

As the owner of Little Shop of Potions, a magic potion shop specializing in love potions, Carly Bell Hartwell finds her product more in demand than ever. But when Carly finds a dead man in her shop, clutching one of her potion bottles, she goes from most popular potion person to public enemy number one. In no time the murder investigation becomes a witch hunt—literally! Now Carly is going to need to brew up some serious sleuthing skills to clear her name and find the real killer—before the whole town becomes convinced her potions really are to die for! (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Griperang

I loved A POTION TO DIE FOR and now have to run out and get the second one so I can see what kind of trouble Carly will find next. One of the things that drew me to this book was the witch theme. As with other cozies I have read I love the small town where this takes place even the name is cute: Hitching Post. The underlying love theme of the town was cute. I enjoy Heather's writing as she keeps me guessing all the way to the end of the book. She will give you just enough clues so you think you may know who did it then she switches up and gives you another clue to you now think of someone else. I loved all of Carly's family from her crazy mom, quiet dad, mean Aunt Marjie, bickering Aunts Eunice and Hazel to her cousin Delia. We must not forget Dylan who is Carly's ex. I really liked him as well. I hope to see Carly's relationships with Delia and Dylan grow as the series goes along. Yes there were a few characters I did not like. Johnny Braxton, Coach and John Richard Baldwin. If you are a fan of cozy mysteries or fun witch stories then be sure to pick this book up. 

Market: Adult Fiction
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: Death

March 30, 2015

ILLUSIONS OF FATE by Kiersten White, 2014


Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Valette M.

ILLUSIONS OF FATE is as delicious and delicately woven as its cover. Like all of Kiersten White's books, it features a strong female lead: Jessamine, a young islander now living on the continent that 'civilized' her homeland. (Think the British empire and colonization.) In a land where she is a second class citizen, Jessamine has to fight for every advantage she can get. I love how confident she is: proud and tall in the darkest circumstances. And boy does she go through some doozies! From being tortured to losing those close to her, she puts up a stiff lip and presses forward. She has a particularly snappy take on life. And Finn! Where do I even begin? Jessamine is so well-rounded there are points he seems underdeveloped by contrast. But still he epitomizes the dashing, mysterious, perfect gentleman magician with card tricks, charm spells, and a deep dark back story. I enjoy his flair immensely, but I approve of his utter adoration of Jessamine even more. He gives her his shadow, guys. HIS SHADOW. And it's all so sweet and desperately romantic I haven't been able to stop smiling all day.

Along with the heart-pounding romance comes all manner of political intrigue. Jessamine is suddenly thrown into life on the upper crust and finds it far more disturbing than she imagined. From one intricate thread to the next, the reader is led along a path that delves into the darker motives for expansion and the darker uses for magic, exploring exactly what it means to have a fate. With mystery upon mystery, we get to see Finn's metal tested and Jessamine's courage tried. The story moves fluidly through revelations faster and faster until culminating with a beautiful, shattering finale. I just wish there were more chapters after the climax! It's probably for the best it ended so quickly, or I might have passed out from not breathing.

I have always appreciated Kiersten White's respect for the reader. There are no shortcuts and no dumbing down. She doesn't write just to have more words to her name. Each story piece is tastefully crafted for its own place: no bigger or smaller than it merits. Illusions of Fate is exhilarating, swoon-worthy, and elegant.

Market: Young Adult
Language: Very mild if any
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: None