Hi guys, today I’m proud to be part of the official blog tour for The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, which is a fantastic book about…loving books. I’ve got a review and interview (and a special Sourcebooks giveaway), and I think it’s a real winner, whether you’re a YA, NA, or adult fiction reader. Read on to find out my thoughts and hear what Katarina Bivald, the author, has to say!The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Author: Katarina Bivald
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram
Publication date: January 19th 2016
Format: eARC from publisher (thank you!)
A New York Times Bestseller
Amazon Best Book of the Month
The International Bestseller
An Indie Regional Bestseller
A National Indie Bestseller
#1 Indie Next Pick
#2 LibraryReads Pick
Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen...
Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy's funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor—there's not much else to do in a dying small town that's almost beyond repair.
You certainly wouldn't open a bookstore. And definitely not with the tourist in change. You'd need a vacant storefront (Main Street is full of them), books (Amy's house is full of them), and...customers.
The bookstore might be a little quirky. Then again, so is Sara. But Broken Wheel's own story might be more eccentric and surprising than she thoughts.
A heartwarming reminder of why we are booklovers, this is a sweet, smart story about how books find us, change us, and connect us.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald is a book that begs you and dares you to not love books. It is, in fact, a book about love: love of books and love of people, and how the two can intertwine to create and change the world we live in.
Sara is a 24 year old bookshop employee who has an epistolary friendship with Amy, an older book-loving lady who lives in Broken Wheel, Iowa. After years of sending each other books and learning about each other, Sara decides to visit – but on her arrival in Broken Wheel, she discovers that Amy has passed away. Despite that, the townspeople insist that Sara must stay in Amy’s house as previously arranged. Told through the various voices of Sara and the Broken Wheel residents, we discover that despite the sleepiness and dreariness of this little town, people and words can transform and illuminate even the most broken of us.
All of this is sounding deeply profound, but The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is not that kind of book. It’s lighthearted, funny, and cosy. Sara and the townspeople start the book as almost caricatures – all stiff and stuck in their own sleepy ways. Sara, in particular, is shy and plain, someone who has never been seen as a genius and never wanted to be spectacular. In fact, the oddest thing about her is probably her friendship with Amy.
It’s such a pleasure, though, watching her open up to the town, and vice-versa. Even though the general concept of the book treads on familiar territory, like life, it is the characters who make Broken Wheel rise above and beyond. There’s Andy, the gay bartender who moved back to Broken Wheel from Chicago with his incredibly handsome boyfriend Carl. There’s George, a recovering alcoholic who becomes Sara’s chauffeur, and is mourning the fact that his ex-wife took his daughter away from him. There’s Caroline, the stiff church lady who gets stuff done, but has never really let go of herself in years. There’s John, the convenience store owner who always had a yen for Amy. And then there’s Tom, Amy’s nephew, who doesn’t read, doesn’t like reading, but nevertheless has an inexplicable rapport with Sara that she’s never felt.
And beyond all that…there is Sara and Amy’s boundless love of books: the feeling, the smell of them, and how important those worlds are to us. I found myself nodding and highlighting so many passages in this book, because The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend GETS us readers and bloggers. This is a book that does not hesitate to talk about book sniffing, crying over fictional characters, and rejoicing in perfect passages. It celebrates the transformative nature of books and other people.
If you’re a book lover or a lover of books about all kinds of love, this is the book for you.
No Book Shaming: One of the things I adored most about this book was how much Bivald didn’t judge books. Bridget Jones’ Diary was mentioned in the same breath as Shakespeare. Goethe in the same breath as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. John Green and The Hunger Games along with Oscar Wilde. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommends loves all of them equally.
Quotable Quotes: You know that thing I said about highlighting passages? Here are a few for you:
“It must have been a frightening realization: so many books she would never get to pick up, so many stories that would happen without her, so many authors she would never get to discover.”
“The real crime of these [book] lists isn’t that they leave deserving books off them, but that they make people see fantastic literary adventures as obligations.”
“Books or people, you ask. It’s a difficult choice, I’ve got to say. I don’t know whether people mean more than books – they’re definitely not nicer or funnier or more comforting … but still, however much I twist and turn the question, I’ve got to opt for people in the long run. I hope you don’t lose all confidence in me now that I’ve admitted that.
I can’t for the life of me explain why I have the bad sense to prefer people. If you went purely by numbers, then books would win hands down. I’ve loved maybe a handful of people in my entire life, compared with tens or maybe even hundreds of books (and here I’m counting only those books I’ve really loved, the kind that make you happy just to look at them, that make you smile regardless of what else is happening in your life, that you always turn back to like an old friend and can remember exactly where you first “met” them – I’m sure you know just what I’m talking about). But that handful of people you love … they’re surely worth just as much as all those books.”
“It was funny, she thought, how often we stuck to the safe path in life, pulling on blinders and keeping our eyes to the ground, doing our best not to look at the fantastic view. Without seeing the heights we had reached, the opportunities actually awaiting us out there; without realizing we should just jump and fly, at least for a moment.”
Book Theme Song:
I was listening to this while reading, and the country feel of it, along with the lyrics, just made it feel like the perfect book to describe Sara’s story in Broken Wheel:
This night is sparkling, don’t you let it go
I’m wonderstruck, blushing all the way home
I’ll spend forever wondering if you knew
I was enchanted to meet you
This is me praying that
This was the very first page
Not where the story line ends
My thoughts will echo your name
Until I see you again
These are the words I held back
As I was leaving too soon
I was enchanted to meet you
The Final Word
If you are looking for the most charming, small-town, delightful book about reading and love, this is your book. Read when cozied up beside a fire, with a mug of tea and a throw blanket, and let your faith in words – and humanity – be restored.
Readers, without further ado, please welcome Katarina Bivald to the blog!
Mostly YA Lit: Hi Katarina, thanks for answering my questions; this is such an adorable book! I think a lot of readers and book bloggers will be able to relate to Sara’s (and indeed, Amy’s) love of books, and you capture that love and some of the thoughts that we all have (books as escapism, books bringing you closer to real life, the feel and smell of books read and books new) as booklovers. Tell me a little about how you fell in love with books and why you decided to write a book specifically about that.
Katarina Bivald: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading. When I started writing this book, I didn’t set out especially to make it about books. I simply wrote it for practice, to fulfill a life-long dream about writing a book, and since I didn’t expect it to be published, I didn’t think too much about it. I just filled it with all the things I myself love in books: small American towns, quirky characters, unexpected friendships, love. And since reading has been such a big part of my life, I guess it’s not surprising that it eventually came to be about the power of books and what bookstores can do for a community.
MYAL: One of the things I really loved about this book is how egalitarian Sara and Amy are about what they read – there’s no shaming of romance vs. classics, literary fiction vs. children’s lit. I particularly loved seeing George’s reaction after reading Bridget Jones’ Diary – a female-centric book. What do you think of book shaming? Is it prevalent in Stockholm? Did thoughts about book-shaming come up at all while writing Broken Wheel? And did you go through a journey of having to defend certain points at any time in your life?
KB: I don’t think I’ve ever felt I had to defend what I was reading. The thought has never really crossed my mind. I remember reading Sweet Valley High when I was young. I was literally addicted to them; I’d buy as many as my money would allow, read them all in one go, and then have to go back to the bookstore immediately to get the next one in the series. But then again, I also remember reading José Saramago and falling in love with his long sentences. I don’t think you can or should compare the two experiences; I’ve never done so. If nothing else, it’s unfair to Saramago. He might not be as addictive as Sweet Valley High, but he has lots of other great qualities.
MYAL: Sara decides to open a bookstore in a middle-American town that is dying. Did you base Broken Wheel (and its residents) on a real place you’ve been? How much research did you do into towns like Broken Wheel? Would you live there?
KB: I would like to live there; in fact, when I wrote the book it often felt like I did. But it exists solely in my imagination. It’s not based on a real town, and while I did research Iowa that’s not really what Broken Wheel is about for me. It’s more my take on the small American towns I’ve loved in other books.
Favorite young adult book? Impossible to choose
Hogwarts Houses for your characters? I don’t know, but I would love to see what the Sorting Hat made of them all.
Best reading snack? Chips
Favorite bookstore in the world? Good god. Another impossible question!
Thanks so much for visiting, Katarina, and for answering my questions (sorry they were so hard to answer!).
THE READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND is out in bookstores now. Are you all interested in reading it? Do you love to read books about loving books like I do? Are you a quotes person? Let me know in the comments!
Guys! You can win a $50 gift card to some favorite US bookstores. As a celebration of Broken Wheel and the indie bookstore that might be created by Sara in the book, Sourcebooks is running a contest to vote on the best indie bookstore to receive a grant. Go cast your vote for your fave and everyone wins!