Katarina Bivald’s The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, and a Book Giveaway!


A book about reading . . . a book about a reading obsession . . . a book about a woman who would rather read than do just about anything else, who almost requires books just to survive?  Sounds like my kind of book.  In fact, it almost sounds like it might be about me (although my horses, my dogs, music and hiking give the books a run for their money on most days too).

Swedish author Katarina Bivald brings us The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, her first novel to be published in the United States, and it starts with promise.  Sara, a mousy former bookstore employee from Sweden, arrives in the tiny, hard-luck town of Broken Wheel, Iowa to meet and visit with her pen pal, Amy, an elderly resident of this little burg. Amy and Sara have bonded over books during their two-year correspondence, but Sara hits town only to learn that Amy’s funeral has just ended.   She wonders if she should just return home, having unknowingly walked into a disaster after all, but the occupants of Broken Wheel convince her to stay for a bit.  As Sara herself thinks, “As long as she had books and money, nothing could be a catastrophe.”  I agree with this philosophy wholeheartedly, if I do say so myself.

In an effort to ingratiate herself with the townspeople and to get these folks to read (it seems that none of them do), she decides to open a bookshop with Amy’s books as inventory.  Slowly, Sara develops friendships with several of Broken Wheel’s oddball citizens:  George, the reticent but well-meaning alcoholic; Jen, a busybody housewife and determined matchmaker; Grace, the opinionated proprietor of the local greasy spoon; Caroline, a younger, steelier version of the Church Lady; and Tom, the strong, silent-type subject of Jen’s matchmaking attempts.

We learn about the town and its denizens through Sara’s direct relationships with them, and through Amy’s letters to Sara, which function as flashbacks of a sort.  It’s in these letters that the book came alive for me, and I looked forward to the appearance of each one for Amy’s books recommendations.  Sara also pushes her favorites:  “She had sold countless copies of Terry Pratchett’s books before, only a few years ago, she had given in and read one of them, making the acquaintance of one of the most fantastic, and definitely most reliable, authors you could ever hope to find.”  She had me at Terry Pratchett.

And she continued to have me through the first two-thirds of the book or so.  But as more and more time passed in Broken Wheel, and as the situation in which Sara finds herself became a little less plausible, the hold the book had on me began to slip.  The literary references dwindled and the focus became the wacky marriage plot cooked up by Sara’s newfound friends so that she can outstay her tourist visa.  The subsequent, over-the-top events seemed a bit of a contrivance to me, although I suppose something similar could conceivably take place in small-town America.  At this point, I felt like the novel somewhat lost its way and couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be book lit, chick-lit, contemporary women’s lit, some kind of cozy, or a straight-up romance (and we all know I don’t do romance).

If you’re a fan of any of the aforementioned genres, then don’t let my disappointment with the latter part of the book keep you from checking it out.  It’s a light-hearted, whimsical read that I’m sure will appeal greatly to women of all stripes and book clubs across the country.  I enjoyed it enough to give it three stars on the Goodreads scale (3.5 on my own personal scale), meaning I liked it just fine but I didn’t absolutely love it.

If you would like a chance win a copy of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend from the publisher, check out this link to their giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by SOURCEBOOKS Landmark via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.




Break’s Over!

So due to Xmas insanity and other crap that had to be dealt with over the extended holiday season, I took a lengthy break from this, my brand-spanking-new blog.  Probably not the greatest strategy ever employed by a novice blogger who would actually like a few folks to find and read what she has to say, but as the cliché goes:  You do whatcha gotta do.

I’m up to my neck in pre-releases to be read and reviewed so time’s a wastin’!  I’ve got a few reviews of new-release sci-fi, women’s lit and non-fiction to post in the next couple of weeks, and I still owe another installment or two of the Baker’s Dozen.  I also plan a glowing review of a fantastic book recently published by a dear, dear friend (all bias aside, it really is a terrific read!).  Finally, I’ve recently started a new mini-project:  working my way through Dick Francis’ catalog.  Given my horsey predilections, it’s a crying shame that I haven’t read more Francis than I have.  Time to rectify that, I say.

It’s a new year and a fresh start.  Glad to be back out here in bloggerland!

Just a few minutes here and there!

I usually have my nose stuffed in three or so books at any one time:  one physical book, one or two Kindle books and one audiobook.  Right now, I’m reading the trade PB of 52 Loaves:  A Half-Baked Adventure, by William Alexander; Colum McCann’s Thirteen Ways of Looking (which just dropped today from Random House) on Kindle, as well as a horror, short-story anthology, Suspended In Dusk, edited by Simon Dewar (also on Kindle); and finally, on audio, the second installment in Marcus Sakey’s near-future Brilliance Saga, A Better World, narrated by Luke Daniels (love me some Luke D.!).  I’ve just finished Furiously Happy:  A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) but wish it had been about a thousand pages longer.  It deserves, and will get, a blog post all its own.

52 Loaves  Thirteen Ways of Looking  Suspended in Dusk  A Better World  Furiously Happy

The audiobooks carry me through my one-hour long commute each day (one-way!) and the Kindle editions keep me going through endless miles on the treadmill.  The actual books and the Kindle versions compete for the remainder of my reading hours . . . or minutes or seconds!  All depends on when I can squeeze in a few more word-filled moments throughout my day.

If I had a nickel for every time someone has whined to me, in the most high-pitched, nasal tone she can muster, “I love to read but I can never find the time” . . .  Believe me, if you truly want to read you will make the time.  Besides the drive time and the gym, I also squeeze in a few pages while I get ready for work in the morning, on my lunch break, while the Hubs watches something loud and obnoxious on television (i.e., war movies, more war movies, and oh, did I mention war movies?), and lying in bed at night waiting to fall asleep.  It’s not that difficult if you put your mind to it . . . unless you have kids – then I know the challenge is truly amplified for you and your priorities are where they should be, with your kids.  Sure, I would much rather have a solid, uninterrupted hour or two (or three or four or five!) to really dig in and lose myself in whatever I’m reading but that’s not always realistic.  I’ve learned to appreciate the time I can get, when I can get it and to make the most of it!

Hello World!

So, first blog post EVER! Why am I doing this? I read and I love to talk about what I read. So join a book club, you say, if you want to discuss your reading choices.

Tried that. Didn’t like it so much. The reasons why would fill up an entire blog post on their own so I won’t bore you with that here. Maybe later . . . in another life.

My mother is the only person I know who reads as much as I do and who just as thoroughly enjoys talking about what she reads. We have our own little book club of two and we hash out what we’re reading on the phone everyday as I make my tedious one-hour commute home from work. We’re not always reading the same books at the same time, but we talk about them nonetheless. She gives me her reading suggestions and I return the favor.

So why don’t you write a little memoir about that, you say? Well, I think Will Schwalbe already did something similar with The End of Your Life Book Club. Only difference is my mom’s not dying, at least not yet!

But Mom won’t be here forever and I can barely get my husband to crack open a book, so I decided to do this for myself mostly. I can talk here ad nauseum about the books I love and the books I didn’t love. If no one ever reads this little blog, so be it. That’s fine by me. But if I manage to turn one person on to a book, author or genre they might not otherwise have discovered or tried, then I’ve done my good deed for the day.

I may also have a slight case of bibliomania. I have way more books than I’ll ever be able to read in the near (or even far) future, yet I keep buying more. I get grouchy if I don’t get to read at least 30 minutes or so a day. I honestly don’t care if I never turn on a TV again (except for football – Go Carolina Panthers!).

I’m no literary expert, but I know what I like and what I don’t like, what works for me and what doesn’t. This isn’t rocket science or quantum physics. It’s just me talking about the books that make me want to sing, the ones that I get a good laugh over and the ones that I want to flush down the toilet. I welcome your comments. Your opinions may differ. That’s okay. No one ever said we have to like the same things. But I do believe we have to respect the opinions and ideas of others and agree to disagree sometimes.

Don’t expect to read about new releases all the time, although I will spotlight those as I do receive ARCs from various publishers. I delve deep into the past with my reading choices too. In fact, I spend most of my time futilely trying to catch up on my “to be read” stack, so unless I’ve received something new directly from the publisher for review purposes, you’ll find yourself reading my musings on the dusty piles cluttering every corner of my house more often than not. No matter. A good book recommendation is a good book recommendation regardless of the copyright date of the thing.

And I reserve the right to blather on about any other subject that comes to mind if I choose. It is my blog after all. Some days I may want to gush over the wonderful creatures that are the two American Saddlebred horses that I ride and show, or I may want to talk about my dogs, or God forbid, politics! I also cuss like a sailor and I apologize in advance if my salty language creeps in from time to time. I’ll try to keep it clean, but I’m just giving you fair warning now. If you are offended in anyway, do the sensible thing, the thing that reasonable people do, and just exit out of my blog and move on to something more to your liking. Don’t fill up the comment section with reasons why my blog shouldn’t be allowed to continue to exist. Just move on and hang out with people that suit your sensibilities. As I said above, opinions differ and I believe you should respect those differing opinions, not try to eradicate them from the face of the Earth!

With that said, this blog is officially a reality. Welcome, and I hope your life is filled with good books and good company!