The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

storied life of aj fikry

Photo Credit: Algonquin Books


This book was sent to Traveling With T in exchange for a fair review.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.


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She Reads April Selection: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

storied life of aj fikry

Photo Credit: Goodreads

Yes, folks, today is the day. Today is the day where She Reads joyfully announces the April book club selection- and drum roll, please- it’s…… THE STORIED LIFE OF A. J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin.

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Author Spotlight: B.A. Shapiro

the art forgerOn Tuesday, B.A. Shapiro stopped by to talk about The Art Forger. Today she is back to tell her #literaryconfessions and more!

Author Spotlight: B.A. Shapiro

Barbara, when you are not writing- what do you like to do with your time?

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that I love to read novels, go to the theater and watch movies. I love stories, all kinds, and eat them up in any fashion I can. I also often be found in an art museum, gallery or haunting artists’ studios.

Could you tell us who some of your favorite authors are?

I don’t have favorite authors as much as I have favorite books. Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible, Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, Ann Tyler’s Accidental Tourist, Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, Jane Hamilton’s Map of the World, Anna Karenina, etc. etc. etc.

Do you have any #literaryconfessions? 

I have three degrees in sociology and took only the required English classes as an undergrad, so I’ve read very few of the great books, can’t spell and I’m still learning correct grammar. (The spell checker just picked up original misspelling of grammar.)

Do you have a #literarycrush? 

Although it’s incredibly politically incorrect, I’ve always wanted to be Scarlett O’Hara.


What are some of the books you are looking forward to reading in 2013?

Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver; The Season of Open Water, Dawn Tripp; The Good Braider, Terry Farish


If you could be best friends with a character in a book- who would you pick? And why?

Sully in Richard Russo’s Nobody’s Fool. If you know Sully, you know why.

What is your idea of a perfect day?

A perfect work day would be one where I spend all day in the zone and don’t notice the day at all. My perfect play day would be on a beach with friends, family – especially my two-year-old granddaughter and a pitcher full of icy cold, perfect dirty martinis.

What is your favorite “guilty pleasure” song?

Well, I’ve been singing I’ve Been Working on the Railroad to my granddaughter a lot. Does that count?


*Special thanks to B.A. Shapiro for agreeing to the Author Spotlight.


Want more information on B.A. Shapiro? Check out her website, Facebook and Twitter pages.


Interview with B.A. Shapiro- author of The Art Forger

the art forger

The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro, was She Reads January 2013 book club selection. And I LOVED this book! I loved it so much- that Allison @ The Book Wheel- went through a snowstorm to get me a signed copy of this book (Note: I didn’t ask her to do that- she just knew how much I adored The Art Forger and wanted to get me a signed copy!)

Today, B.A. Shapiro is here to talk about The Art Forger– on Thursday, she will be back to discuss #literaryconfessions and more!

Interview with B.A. Shapiro

Barbara- The Art Forger, in part, was inspired by the real life Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist of 1990. What was your inspiration for Claire? Did you consider setting the novel in an earlier time- closer to the art heist?

Claire is a struggling artist, semi-confident in her talent, strong on ambition and feeling like she’s getting nowhere in her career despite past successes. When I was working on The Art Forger, I was a struggling writer, semi-confident in my talent, strong on ambition and getting nowhere in my career despite past successes. Need I say more?

How long did The Art Forger take to write?

It’s always hard to answer this question as you don’t start one day and end on another. Writing a novel is a process for me, it includes lots of planning – plotting, multi-colored file cards, character sketches – lots of research – including books, interviews, Internet – and then writing and rewriting and rewriting some more. If you count all of those things, my guess is it took me between three and four years start to finish.

Are any of the characters in The Art Forger based on people you know in real life? Or are they created from your imagination?

Some of them are, some are composites, some are completely fictional. But even if you start with a real person in mind, the story changes them and they become the character rather than the person. For example, Rik is based on a friend of mine; he fits the general description and behavior of the real Rik, but he’s a curator at the Gardner and the real Rik owns a boutique on Newbury Street.

Claire is the great imposter in the art world. Is that fair? Or is Claire being punished too severely?

This is a question I hope the reader will consider. How do we get labeled as good or bad? And who does the labeling? Human beings are complicated. I’m sure Mother Teresa did a few “bad” things in her life, and that the Boston Strangler did many good ones. What is fair? And is fairness something we can expect from life? From a novel?

If The Art Forger was made into a movie- do you have a dream cast?

I’d love to see Claire Danes and Jude Law.

Have we, as readers, heard the last from Claire and others in The Art Forger?

All of my books have been stand-alones, although I did once have a major character from one book (Shattered Echoes) become a minor character in another (Blind Spot). Although the temptation is there – and lots of people have told me they’d love another Claire book – I think that in most cases, one book is enough for a character. I worry she’d lose her freshness.

What are you working on next, Barbara? Can you give us any hints?

I’m working on another book about art, which also goes back and forth in time, but this one focuses on the past story. This story takes place right before WWII in New York City where the future abstract expressionists – Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Mark Rothko, etc. – are all young, unknown and working for the WPA. My fictional character is one of the gang, but aside from her passion for art, she is trying to get her French Jewish family out of France before the war begins. And as in all good stories, she finds trouble, trouble, trouble.

*Special thanks to B.A. Shapiro for agreeing to be interviewed!

barbara s The art forger

B.A. Shapiro, author of The Art Forger (which can be bought in paperback now!) can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and has a website.

To read my review of The Art Forger, visit here.


Meeting Jill McCorkle- Life After Life book signing

Jill McCorkle reading from Life After Life

Jill McCorkle reading from Life After Life

Can I just say how much I adored meeting Jill McCorkle? I totally enjoyed it! Now from that statement, I’m sure most would think that I’ve been a Jill McCorkle fan for years- but surprise- Life After Life was my first book to read by her.  I had an opportunity to review Life After Life several weeks ago through Netgalley, and during this time frame, Life After Life made Deep South Magazine’s 10 Reads for Spring. I trust Deep South Mag’s opinion- and if they say it’s a good read; well then, I’m going to give it a try. And lastly, during this time, I checked Turnrow Books in Greenwood, MS events and guess who was coming to town? Jill McCorkle! So like the Magic 8 ball says “all signs point to yes”- it was decided that I needed to read this book. So I did- and I really enjoyed it. Funny, heartwarming, sad at times- great characters. All are dealing with a heartache, a situation, and some are trying to make the last years of their lives count.

But what made meeting Jill McCorkle the best was how funny and nice she is- she could go from talking about some of the most heartfelt things to making the room crack up with loud giggles and laughs.

At the signing/reading- Jill read from “Sadie” a bit, then read from “Joanna’s Notes” about her dad, then read “Joanna’s dad’s” section.  Each section had it’s own voice, it’s own thoughts- and was beautifull written- and even humours at times.  Jill told the audience that she likes to think there is a lot of humor in Life After Life, even though there is sadness.

Jill also told the audience that it’s a popular misconception that “life will yield when something happens, but that rarely happens”. This was the case during her creation of Life After Life– her dad was dying, her children still needed her for dinner and other motherly duties, and work was still happening (grading papers and teaching). As she told us this, I began thinking that while we may wish life would slow down and let us deal with things as they happen- life has other plans for us. Life keeps spinning- until your final breath.

When questioned if any characters were based on people she knew in life or not- it was revealed that Toby is based on Jill’s work of teaching Introduction to Fiction. Toby, in the book, tells of how tired she was of reading essays about vampires, werewolves and the like- and that is how Jill felt at one point in her Intro to Fiction class. Jill wanted something with emotion, something with human emotion. So she tried to teach her students that emotion is like a primary box of crayons- but that as they got older, the emotions are more like a 64 pack of crayons- so you might feel periwinkle sometimes. But, at the base of that emotion is the original primary color emotion you felt as a child or teenager.

About Jill’s writing process- she likes to write in same place- but after having children- she realized she had to be more flexible. So she sometimes goes to the grocery store and sits in her car in the parking lot and writes- then later goes grocery shopping! She also takes lots of notes- and just reads them in the morning and evening- then she stores them for a time till she can write for an extended period. In this way, Jill speaks of that she’s always working on something; but it just takes time- and that’s a good thing because it gives her thoughts time to “perk”.  Some of Jill’s characters will have memories or thoughts of her friends (after she’s asked!) Lastly Jill spoke of that sometimes when gathering her thoughts about writing, something will cross her mind that seems like it does not fit, like it’s not a logical next step in the process. When this happens, instead of ignoring that thought, she knows it’s meant to be in the thoughts, in her writing process.

Before she began signing books, she told this piece of advice for writers: The first draft of the book is like falling in love; but the revision of the book is the real deal in love.

Jill signing a book

Jill signing a book


Jill and Traveling With T

Thanks Tunrow Books for hosting a great event- and thanks to Jill McCorkle for being so gracious- signing my book and posing for pictures.

My review of Life After Life: Life After Life by Jill McCorkle- review by Traveling With T