The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
Publisher/Year: Graywolf Press, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 216
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


November, a dark, rainy Tuesday, late afternoon. This is my ideal time to be in a bookstore. The shortened light of the afternoon and the idleness and hush of the hour gather everything close, the shelves and the books and the few other customers who graze head-bent in the narrow aisles.

In The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Buzbee, a former bookseller and sales representative, celebrates the unique experience of the bookstore–the smell and touch of books, the joy of getting lost in the deep canyons of shelves, and the silent community of readers. He shares his passion for books, which began with ordering through the Weekly Reader in grade school. Woven throughout is a fascinating historical account of the bookseller trade–from the great Alexandria library with an estimated one million papyrus scrolls to Sylvia Beach’s famous Paris bookstore, Shakespeare & Co., that led to the extraordinary effort to publish and sell James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Rich with anecdotes, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is the perfect choice for those who relish the enduring pleasures of spending an afternoon finding just the right book.

What I thought

Oh, my heart. I knew from the first page–hell, the first paragraph–that this was a book with which I could fall in love. I have always been an avid reader and an insatiable book hoarder. Obviously, I know I’m here among fellow book lovers (because why else would you be here?), but I have never felt so seen and so understood as I have while reading through the pages of this little book. Every once in a while, I come across a special book–one that requires me to own a copy so that I can occasionally take it down from my shelves and thumb through its pages with the utmost feeling of fondness. This is one of those books.

Buzbee has written such an interesting walk through a bookish life. His own personal journey has me feeling like I’ve found a kindred spirit, and now I know for sure–I have definitely missed my calling as a bookseller. And as a nerd for all things history, I so enjoyed the fascinating history behind books, booksellers, publishing, bookstores, and more.

The town I live in has one bookstore–a Barnes & Noble–which I love dearly. It is a place I frequently visit, whether I have a preset purpose or not. While Buzbee writes in defense of the indie bookstore, I appreciated that he took the time to point out the pros and cons of other types of bookstores, as well. Because the way I see it, I just love bookstores. When we travel, I make it a point to check out any and all indie bookstores I can find, and I make sure I purchase something at each one. I feel lucky because I’m able to do so, and it’s led me to some seriously great bookstores (Otto’s in Williamsport, PA; Main St. Books in Frostburg, MD; Pressed in Erie, PA; Books Galore in Erie, PA–to name a few recent favorites). I try to do my part, no matter how small. And I just really loved that Buzbee got that.

I could probably go on and on about this little book and why it means so much to me as a reader (don’t even get me started on my love for libraries–I’ll save that for another day). I’ll simply say that when I picked up this little hardcover and it fit so perfectly into my hands, I just knew I was in for a treat. So, reader friends, if you love books about books or books about reading, I hope you stumble upon this one. I cannot recommend it enough.

Stolen Things by R. H. Herron

Stolen Things by R. H. Herron
Publisher/Year: Dutton, 2019
Format: E-galley (via NetGalley)
Rating: ⭐⭐


A sensational crime, a missing teen, and a mother and daughter with no one to trust but themselves come together in this shocking debut thriller by R. H. Herron.

“Mama? Help me.”

Laurie Ahmadi has worked as a 911 police dispatcher in her quiet Northern California town for nearly two decades. She considers the department her family; her husband, Omid, is its first Arab American chief, and their teenaged daughter, Jojo, has grown up with the force. So when Laurie catches a 911 call and, to her horror, it’s Jojo, the whole department springs into action.

Jojo, drugged, disoriented, and in pain, doesn’t remember how she ended up at the home of Kevin Leeds, a pro football player famous for his on-the-field activism and his work with the CapB–“Citizens Against Police Brutality”–movement. She doesn’t know what happened to Kevin’s friend and trainer, whose beaten corpse is also discovered in the house. And she has no idea where her best friend Harper, who was with her earlier in the evening, could be.

But when Jojo begins to dive into Harper’s social media to look for clues to her whereabouts, Jojo uncovers a shocking secret that turns everything she knew about Harper–and the police department–on its head. With everything they thought they could rely on in question, Laurie and Jojo begin to realize that they can’t trust anyone to find Harper except themselves…and time is running out.

What I thought

Thank you to NetGalley and Dutton for the free e-galley of this book! This does not affect my opinion presented here in this review.

Unfortunately, this book turned out to be just “okay” for me. There were aspects of it that I did like, but then there were others that I didn’t, so let’s just dive in. There’s a lot going on in this novel: racism, feminism, rape, LGBTQ rights, police brutality, police corruption, mental health, and more. And while this speaks to today’s society and current events, it just felt like too much. I am all for using one’s voice to make a difference, but to me, it was just laid on too thick. It felt gimmicky, like the author was just throwing hot topics in there to get your attention.

All of that being said, my biggest issue with this novel was that so much of it felt, frankly, unbelievable. I know this took place in a “small town,” but it just seemed to me that there’s no way that Laurie and Jojo could have gotten away with some of the measure they took. Maybe I’m wrong–I have never worked for a police department–but I don’t buy it. I do want to give credit where credit’s due–what I did enjoy about this book was that, at times, it got my heart pounding, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I do want to warn readers that this one does get pretty graphic. Even I felt uncomfortable at some parts. One final point I wanted to make was that the ending felt kind of abrupt. The final chapters built up to this almost maddening pace, which was great, but then it was just over, with very little resolution.

As you can see, I felt pretty torn about this one. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it. Again, Stolen Things was just okay for me. If this one sounds like something you enjoy, I say go for it because it was a heckuva thriller. I just don´t think that personally I´d be interested in other books by this author.

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
Publisher/Year: Simon & Schuster, 2019
Format: E-galley
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Charles and Lily, James and Nan. They meet in Greenwich Village in 1963 when Charles and James are jointly hired to steward the historic Third Presbyterian Church through turbulent times. Their personal differences however, threaten to tear them apart.

Charles is destined to succeed his father as an esteemed professor of history at Harvard, until an unorthodox lecture about faith leads him to ministry. How then, can he fall in love with Lily–fiercely intellectual, elegantly stern–after she tells him with certainty that she will never believe in God? And yet, how can he not?

James, the youngest son in a hardscrabble Chicago family, spent much of his youth angry at his alcoholic father and avoiding his anxious mother. Nan grew up in Mississippi, the devout and beloved daughter of a minister and a debutante. James’s escape from his desperate circumstances leads him to Nan and, despite his skepticism of hope in all its forms, her gentle, constant faith changes the course of his life.

In The Dearly Beloved, we follow these two couples through decades of love and friendship, jealousy and understanding, forgiveness and commitment. Against the backdrop of turbulent changes facing the city and the church’s congregation, these four forge improbable paths through their evolving relationships, each struggling with uncertainty, heartbreak, and joy. A poignant meditation on faith and reason, marriage and children, and the ways we find meaning in our lives, Cara Wall’s The Dearly Beloved is a gorgeous, wise, and provocative novel that is destined to become a classic.

What I thought

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the free e-galley of this book! This does not affect my opinion presented here in this review.

I am really killing it with my choice of books this year! The Dearly Beloved was a beautiful, insightful, poignant read. I found myself highlighting entire passages of this book because it was so lyrically written. This was one of those books where I found myself stopping to re-read passages because they just took my breath away. It absolutely blows my mind that this was Wall’s debut novel. Don’t let the Christian theme turn you away–this was a stunning take on different types of faith, including non-faith, that was entirely objective and unbiased. Not only that, but this novel was also a perceptive rendition of the friendship between four almost completely different people. Readers will be able to find characters to relate to, as well as a depth that creates food for thought as the story follows Charles, Lily, Nan, and James throughout the years. Speaking of years, I loved how authentic the ’50s and ’60s felt while reading, too. Overall, The Dearly Beloved was a gorgeous debut novel not to be missed, and I’m already anticipating what Wall writes next.