FTC Disclosure: NetGalley and Revell Reads gave me complimentary copies of this book. A positive review was not required. These are my honest thoughts.
A few things disrupted my peaceful reading experience, the largest of which was the heavy emphasis on drinking alcohol, drunkenness, and bar and holiday parties at which vast amounts of alcohol were consumed. It was unexpected emphasis as the back cover copy didn’t hint at this theme. I must say, though, that I really admired the lead’s stance on not partaking of alcohol despite one of her closest friends trying on a couple of occasions to talk her into it. I was grateful for this positive note amid the muck of that particular theme.
Back to the things I adored about this novel. Firstly, the cover was amazing. As soon as a friend alerted me to the major cuteness of the cover art (thanks, Hannah!), I knew I had to read whatever was behind those gorgeously, quirkily stacked books. When I received the paperback in the mail (thanks, Revell Reads!), I was blown away by the unique texture of the cover. Not only was it strikingly beautiful to my eyes, but it passed on that same quality to my fingertips.
The way vintage books were infused into the storyline was incredible. This is the second novel I’ve read in recent weeks (the other was Finding Lady Enderly) that found a special way to use classic books within the story. I can’t really talk about how those classics were used in either story, because it would give away major things and rob future readers of the amazing journey those classics helped build. Trust me (or test it out for yourself) when I tell you that it made my heart melt and sigh and sing all at the same time.
A couple of characters in this one really stood out to me. Peter was a fantastic hero for ninety-eight percent of the time. There was one “plot twist” that was thrown in seemingly for the shock factor. It was quite out of character for him to react in such a way to emotional pain, and the action he took kicked a large dent in my respect for him. However, the rest of the time, he was an amazing hero who was easy to root for and sympathize with. He was definitely the cause of many a happy sigh from this reader. Dawt Pi was by far my favorite character in this story. At first I thought she was in her forties or fifties, but now I can’t recall why I had that vibe. Once I was told a couple of times about a third of the way through the book that she was in her early twenties, I was able to adjust my mental picture of her pretty well. The age difference between what I thought and how the author envisioned her did not in any way change my opinion of her. The personality of Dawt Pi was very realistic compared to the Asian folks I’ve met (from several different countries, including South Korea, Japan, China, and Burma). Again, I can’t say too much without spoiling things. I simply adored her and want to reread this book just to enjoy her all over again. Another favorite character was The Professor, who was an African Grey parrot. He added so much quirk to this story that I found myself chuckling at him more often than not. This was a great pet to display in these pages, especially under such a skilled hand as Mrs. Bartels obviously has.
The split-time presentation really worked for me in this story, which kind of surprised me since the two time periods were so close together. One was present day with the lead somewhere around thirty, while the other was back when she was fifteen. The tension of both threads was heightened because of the style of switching back and forth at every new chapter. I particularly enjoyed how little nuggets of information would be given in one thread that you then needed to know or found out even more about in the other thread. That aspect was written to perfection.
Brick & Mortar Books, the lead’s bookshop, was like my dream come true. I’ve often envisioned owning a small bookshop with a little apartment upstairs, so spending time in Robin’s carved-out space was delightful and special and a wonderful treat.
This was my first-ever book by Mrs. Erin Bartels, but I think I might have to check out at least one more. She has a fantastic way of crafting her sentences that digs deep while presenting the reader with gorgeous prose that makes one think outside the box.
Content: alcohol/drunkenness (including bars/parties; heavy theme), drugs (three or four mentions), expletives, replacement profanity, teen drinking/driving, teen drug use (mentioned, not shown), sexual term (one or two), alcohol memorabilia (one or two), tobacco