The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Audio)

cover image of audiobook on CDThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, a novel by Gabrielle Zevin, is about a grieving widower named A.J. – old before his time at not even 40 – whose lonely life as a judgmental, cantankerous bookseller on Alice Island (a fictional Massachusetts island much like Martha’s Vineyard) is transformed when a small child named Maya enters his life. Narrated by Scott Brick, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was one of my favorite audiobooks of 2014. Bookish and clever, funny and moving, it’s a wonderful story, even if completely unrealistic.

I started this post back in May, but never wrote up a review, so I thought I’d just share a couple of quotes from the book. Lambiase (pronounced Lamb-bee-ay-zay, as I recall) is the police detective who is investigating the abandonment of Maya in A.J.’s bookstore.

“Lambiase does not miss his wife, although he does miss having somewhere to go after work. He parks himself on the floor and pulls Maya onto his lap. After Maya falls asleep, Lambiase tells A.J. the things he’s learned about the mother.

‘What’s strange to me,’ A.J. says, ‘is why she was on Alice Island in the first place. It’s kind of a pain to get here, you know. My own mother’s visited me once in all the years I’ve lived here. You really believe she wasn’t coming to see someone specific?’

Lambiase shifts Maya in his lap. ‘I’ve been thinking about that. Maybe she didn’t have a plan of where she was going. Maybe she just took the first train, and then the first bus, and then the first boat, and this is where she ended up.’

A.J. nods out of politeness, but he doesn’t believe in random acts. He is a reader, and what he believes in is narrative construction. If a gun appears in Act One, that gun had better go off by Act Three.”

* * *

Lambiase nods, and drinks his wine. “Nobody’s saying you have to keep her.”

“Yeah, yeah, of course. But do you think I could have some sort of say in where she ended up? She’s an awfully smart little thing. Like she already knows the alphabet, and I even got her to understand alphabetical order. I’d hate to see her land with some jerks who didn’t appreciate that. As I was saying before, I don’t believe in fate. But I do feel a sense of responsibility toward her. That young woman did leave her in my care.”

If you like quirky books like Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore or Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, or books that are about books and reading, you’ll probably like The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry very much. Listen to an excerpt here.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Zevin, Gabrielle
Brick, Scott (narr.)
Highbridge Audio
April 2014
7 hours on 7 CDs

Disclosure: I bought my own copy of this audiobook, which is nice, because I might want to listen to it again sometime.

Other opinions on the audiobook edition:
The Literate Housewife
Words and Peace

Gluten-Free Bread Baking #weekendcooking @BethFishReads @KingArthurFlour @GFCanteen

Regular readers of my Weekend Cooking posts may remember that many of our meals are low-carb, and that we converted to a pretty much gluten-free kitchen over a year ago. Between these two dietary restrictions, we have been going without the homemade, whole-grain rolls and loaves of bread that we used to have, alongside homemade soup, on a regular basis throughout the fall and winter.

Eventually, we started adding carbs back into the meal plan, but gluten-free bread seemed difficult and time-consuming to make, and,  disappointingly, for the few recipes we did try, the texture was more like a biscuit than a yeast bread.


*cue fanfare*

King Arthur Flour to the rescue!

Those of you who are sick of hearing how wonderful King Arthur Flour products are, might want to stop reading here, but first, just take a look at the photos of this gluten-free, whole-grain bread made from the KAF Gluten-Free Whole-Grain Bread recipe:

Doesn’t it look almost exactly like “real” bread? Tasted great, too!

Next, I want to try making it with the substitution of KAF’s Ancient Grains Blend for part of the KAF Gluten-Free Whole-Grain Flour Blend.

For white bread, my most successful effort yet, has been Gluten-Free Challah with Poolish made from a recipe from Nosh on This by Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel. It’s similar to this recipe for Rosh Hashanah Challah on Lisa’s blog, Gluten-Free Canteen, but has “poolish” as a starter.


Looking for more recipes? Check out these G/F baking blogs:

Gluten-Free Canteen (on Twitter @GFCanteen)
King Arthur Flour Flourish (on Twitter @KingArthurFlour)
Art of Gluten-Free Baking (@fourchickens)

Happy weekend cooking!

Weekend Cooking buttonThis post is part of Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click here for more Weekend Cooking posts from bloggers around the world.

Please Ignore the Cover: Deutschland by Martin Wagner @CarnelianValley

cover imageThe cover image of Deutschland by Martin Wagner may misleadingly make you think of a Cujo-like horror novel, but although a scary dog on a chain does appear about a third of the way in, Deutschland is a work of literary fiction with the theme of moral/ethical choices. What determines whether one is a good person? Do thoughts count or only actions? Can good people do bad things? What if someone does a bad thing to prevent someone else from doing something worse? Are ethics something that arise naturally, or a human construct like the chain on a starving attack dog?

The novel is short– about 150 pages – set in England, over the summer holidays. Grandchildren Samantha, Tony, and Jeff are staying with the grandparents in their large, seaside home, near a wood the three children aren’t supposed to explore as much as they do. The story focuses on one main character from each of the generations – Robert, the American expatriate step-grandfather; Kate – his wife Suzannah’s adult daughter;  and Sam, Kate’s niece, around 10 or 12 years old. Sam is anxious to keep her youngest brother Jeff safe from Tony’s dangerous dares and challenges. Kate – the unsettled wanderer – is about to embark on a trip to Munich with a new boyfriend, and is dreading telling her mother she’s going to Germany. And Robert, as Suzannah’s second husband, still feeling somewhat the interloper in the family, has a miserable secret from his own past that he may be forced to reveal.

Author Martin Wagner is a film-maker and playwright; Deutschland is his first published novel. Deutschland would make a good movie; each segment of the story could easily become a scene. Readers are given some insight into what Robert, Kate, and Samantha are thinking, but for the most part, as readers, we are listening to their conversations and watching the characters interact in the present, getting only an occasional backstory.

Deutschland is thought-provoking reading that leaves many questions unanswered or ambiguously answered. It reminded me a bit of The Red House by Mark Haddon (with its tangle of English family members misunderstanding each other) but Deutschland is much more straightforwardly written (no stream of consciousness).

Wagner, Martin
Pinter & Martin, 2013
151 pp.

DIsclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author for review. Thank you to Charlie of The Worm Hole for recommending it to me!

Other opinions:
The Worm Hole

Suggestions from a Massachusetts Librarian


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