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.

July 31, 2015

THIS ROUGH MAGIC by Mary Stewart, 1964

When Lucy's sister Phyllida suggests that she join her for a quiet holiday on the island of Corfu, Lucy is overjoyed. Her work as an actress has temporarily come to a halt. But the peaceful idyll does not last long. A series of incidents, seemingly unconnected - but all surrounded in mystery - throws Lucy's life into a dangerous spin, as fear, danger and death - as well as romance - supplant the former tranquillity. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Penny Blubaugh - Young Adult Author and Librarian

When Lucy Waring arrives in Corfu to visit her sister all she wants to do is relax and forget about the play with her first major role.  The play that’s just folded under her.  But on her first day she’s almost hit by a bullet as someone shoots at a tame dolphin in the sea.  The son of her sister’s housekeeper is drowned.  A local fisherman goes missing.  And then she meets Sir Julian Gale, renter of the Castello on her sister and brother-in-law’s property.  He’s a leading light of the English theatre who’s disappeared in his own way by retiring from the stage. Suddenly everything begins to click into place when it seems that Max Gale, Sir Julian’s son, is mixed up in all the mayhem.  But is he on the right side or the wrong one? 

First published in 1964, this is one of the books I go back to time and time again.  The setting of Corfu is vivid.  The contrast between the island’s orange trees and pines, its blinding heat and blue, blue water, its serene beauty and the story’s underlying violence make a wonderful read.  Lucy’s relationship with Sir Julian – that of a minor actress meeting her idol and clicking with him as they bond over Shakespeare’s Tempest – is charming.  Her relationship with his son is classic magnetic attraction that both try to ignore as they’re pushed together again and again by Sir Julian’s presence.  And the dark work of a series of coincidences that soon point to a murderer who will stop at nothing is violence layered onto a respite of sun and sea.

Peppered with quotes from Shakespeare’s play and washed in colors of blue and gold, midnight and early mornings, THIS ROUGH MAGIC is a true gothic romance.

Market: YA and Adult                                                                      Language: Mild
Sensuality: Not overt, but nicely sexy
Violence: Lots of it but most is off the page
Themes: Romance, theatre, politics of the 60s

July 27, 2015

THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah J. Maas, 2012

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught. Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted? (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Emma - College Student

THRONE OF GLASS took me a long time to get into, hence why it took me so long to read. Though once I finally got into it, I was hooked and could not put it down. It is beautifully written, if not the most beautifully written book I have ever read. There are so many twists and turns, it was impossible for me to fully predict what was going to happen. This book is also filled to the brim with dynamic characters, the standout obviously being Celaena, who never ceases to surprise and is the epitome of a strong female character. The author, Sarah J. Maas, painted her scenes so magnificently that I was immediately able to picture the settings perfectly. I was also really excited to the map in the beginning of the book, I definitely utilized it; I should have tabbed it I looked at it so much.

I only had one minor complaint, it was SO difficult to pronounce everything. Thankfully, there was a guide for how to pronounce most of the confusing names, but it would have been a lot more helpful had it been in the beginning so that one could have known that it was there.

Also, it has quite a bit of gore, it was not too gruesome and it wasn’t extraneous, but it was a bit on the dark side.

Throne of Glass truly is a very special gem in the book world. There were so many exceptional moments Maas created, from the characters themselves, to the minor details that she explored that many authors don’t take the time to do. If you are any sort of a fantasy fan, you should definitely read this book. It is the perfect example of what a high fantasy YA novel should be; from the complex characters, the magic, the royalty danger, romance, it has it all. I have a feeling that his series will easily become one of my favorites.

Market: Young Adult
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Moderate
Violence: Moderate+
Mature Themes: death, abuse, enslavement, evil magic

July 20, 2015

NOTES FROM A BLUE BIKE by Tsh Oxenrider, 2014

The popular blogger and founder of the internationally recognized "Simple Mom" online community tells the story of her family's ongoing quest to live more simply, fully, and intentionally. Part memoir, part travelogue, part practical guide, "Notes from a Blue Bike "takes you from a hillside in Kosovo to a Turkish high-rise to the congested city of Austin to a small town in Oregon. It chronicles schooling quandaries and dinnertime dilemmas, as well as entrepreneurial adventures and family excursions via plane, train, automobile, and blue cruiser bike. (Goodreads)
Reviewed by Griperang
I kept seeing NOTES FROM A BLUE BIKE on the internet but never really looked to see what it was about, in fact I kind of kept ignoring everywhere I saw it. Well one day it caught my attention again and without knowing what it was about I decided to check it out and read it. When I got it I thought oh this sounds interesting. I was sitting in the doctor's office waiting on my husband and dove right in, it grabbed me from page one and I did not want to put it down. Now I started looking more at the cover and the praise for the book and realized that Hey I follow this blog, no wonder I kept seeing so much about the book - duh. Well let me tell you the blog, and I encourage you to check it out. To me Tsh and her husband are an inspiration, I applaud them for the way they live. I really enjoyed reading about the travels the family has done and would love it if I could read even more about their time in Turkey. Tsh gives some very good examples on ways to live simply and really makes you stop and think about the things  you do in your own life. She also has included some questions at the end of the book to make you think a little more.
Another thing that I like about Tsh is that she admits sometimes she makes mistakes and has to change things as she goes - liking deciding where her children are schooled (home vs public vs private). I encourage everyone to pick up this book and give it a whirl as I do not think you will be disappointed. I will even tell you that this is one of the best books I have read all year. Tsh has written a couple of other books as well that I plan to check out.
Market: Nonfiction/Memoir
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Violence: None
Mature Themes: None

July 13, 2015

THE LOST by Sarah Beth Durst, 2014

It was only meant to be a brief detour. But then Lauren finds herself trapped in a town called Lost on the edge of a desert, filled with things abandoned, broken and thrown away. And when she tries to escape, impassable dust storms and something unexplainable lead her back to Lost again and again. The residents she meets there tell her she's going to have to figure out just what she's missing--and what she's running from--before she can leave. So now Lauren's on a new search for a purpose and a destiny. And maybe, just maybe, she'll be found... (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Valette M.

As far as heroines go, Lauren Chase is nothing special: no prophecy about her future, no strange powers since birth. And because of this, she is incredibly relatable. I fell in love with her as she struggles to come to terms with her new world and the mother she's losing. Her motivations ring true and she feels real, clever and sturdy, with no moping about but a matter-of-fact view on life. But, however fantastic she may be as the lead, the character that takes the cake for me is Peter (the Finder in Lost who rescues lost people from the death grip of the void). With cat-like grace and a somewhat mischievous streak to him, it's entrancing to read about him. I agree with Lauren completely when she describes him as a grown up Peter-Pan. He pops in and out of scenes perfectly representing what a man of that past would be, but does it so well that he sweeps all the stereotypes away and practically reaches the status of archetype. If he was the only good thing in the book, I would still gobble up the sequels. Thankfully the entire book is quite good.

It is a very rare author that can take a simple idea -- say, a place where all lost things go -- and flesh it out into such a thoroughly satisfying mix of thriller, romance, and self-discovery. Right from the beginning, Durst's delicious prose paints a disturbingly hypnotic view of a town that exists apart from time, where all lost things go. And all lost people. People who have lost their way in life do not make for a very stable citizenry. Feral dogs roam the streets in packs and bands of ragged scavenger children armed with knives comb through frequent junk piles in a world built on the barter system, all surrounded by a dust storm called the Void that sucks the hope from those that enter until they become nothing more than dust themselves. No one and nothing can leave Lost until they find whatever it is they have lost. But even then, the Missing Man is the only one who can send them home. He refuses to help Lauren, and disappears. Struggling to simply survive, Lauren is forced to face her own despair head on to discover what she's lost. And the Void creeps steadily closer. In this well-brewed tale the stakes never stop rising. THE LOST will rip your heart out and stomp on it every which way. Thank goodness it's the start of a series! And you'd better bet I'll be counting down the days until I can get my hands on the next one.

Sarah Beth Durst is very good at what she does. Her rich descriptions and hearty characters bring the story alive with such oomph it will leave you gasping. I tried, goodness knows how I tried, to read this book slowly, to savor every mesmerizing word, but it ended far too quickly. A strong start to a very promising series. Stunning. Transfixing. Captivating.

Market: Young Adult
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: Death

July 6, 2015


Seventeen-year-old Genesis Lee has never forgotten anything. As one of the Mementi—a small group of genetically-enhanced humans—Gena remembers everything with the help of her Link bracelets, which preserve memories perfectly. But Links can be stolen, and six people have already lost their lives to a memory thief, including Gena’s best friend. Anyone could be next. Which is why Gena is less than pleased to meet a strange but charming boy named Kalan who claims that they’ve not only met, but that Gena knows who the thief is. The problem is, Gena doesn’t remember Kalan, she doesn’t remember seeing the thief, and she doesn’t know why she’s forgetting things— or how much else she might forget. As growing tensions between Mementi and ordinary humans drive the city of Havendale into chaos, Gena and Kalan team up to search for the thief. And as Gena loses more memories, they realize they have to solve the mystery fast. Because Gena’s life is unhappening around her. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Rosalyn E.

Shallee McArthur's debut novel, THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE,
 is a phenomenal book. Well written, fast-paced, intriguing characters, but best of all, a smart world view. 

In this near-future society, a group of people with genetically modified memories (the Mementi) have formed their own colony, which is slowly being infiltrated by regular people (Populace). Genesis Lee is Mementi, and stories all of her memories in beads. She's pretty content with her life, hanging out with friends and practicing her dance, until her best friend's memories are stolen by the Link thief who is terrorizing the Mementi population. When Gena runs into a cute Populace boy who claims to know her, but who she doesn't remember, things get serious. Because Gena has never forgotten anything. Ever. But to stop the thief, she's going to need his help.

I thought the book had a nice balance of Gena's own internal conflicts with forgetting and the external tension rising between the Mementi and Populace. The story had some cool twists, but my favorite parts were the relationships. I liked how things were complicated: her relationship with Kalan and other Populace, her relationship with her best friend (who's forgotten the last two years of their relationship), and with her family. And I was so impressed with how smart the book was--I've done some research in memory studies (mostly in terms of collective memory, rather than physiological memory), and it was clear to me that McArthur knows her stuff. 

A great read for fans of light sci-fi.

Market: YA
Language: mild
Sensuality: mild
Violence: moderate--some physical violence and death as part of an uprising
Mature Themes: memory loss, anxiety, rebellion