Bookish Happenings

Adventures at McKay’s Books (Nashville, Tennessee)

You’ve never been to a used book store quite like McKay’s.  If you’re in Tennessee or North Carolina… or if you’re visiting Tennessee or North Carolina… or if you’re nowhere near Tennessee or North Carolina… you should check this place out.  It’s quite the experience.

My friend Kristine and I are on a quest to conquer all the bookstores in Nashville (even if she doesn’t know it yet).  Our first stop on this bookish tour was Parnassus Books and we took a strong detour to McKay’s.  Where Parnassus is an expert in the new and bestselling, with plenty of author meet and greet opportunities, and chic, trendy, bookstore design, McKay’s is like a thrift shop on steroids.

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We walked in and immediately it was major sensory overload.  People were grabbing shopping carts… in a book store.  I thought to myself, “Is that really necessary?”  Turns out it is.  Imagine rows and rows and rows… and rows… of bookshelves from floor to ceiling jam packed with used books.  Kristine got there before me and when she texted me to say she was in the Bargain Fiction section, I figured it would be pretty easy to find her.  Wrong!  My first thought when I walked into the building was, “Um, how the hell do I find Bargain Fiction?”  Luckily, McKay’s is pretty smart and puts laminated cards on the end of each aisle with a list of genres and the corresponding aisle in which you can find that genre.  Thank you for that!

When I found Kristine she had a couple of books in her hand.  Bestsellers.  Each for $1.50.  That is not a typo.  Ridiculous.  I found myself perusing the shelves of Bargain Fiction with my head permanently tilted to the right, neck craned, reading every spine in the hopes I would find some steals.  Folks, Bargain Fiction included titles like Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris,  Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, and One Day in December by Josie Silver (all for $0.50 to $1.50).  It was not your typical “bargain” section that has beat up Danielle Steel mass market paperbacks.  Although it had those too…. for $0.25 a piece.

I picked up this luxurious haul of books by authors Diane Chamberlain (author of The Dream Daughter), Elin Hilderbrand (author of The Identicals and The Perfect Couple) and Tatiana de Rosnay (author of The Rain Watcher).  Four books for $5.46.  You cannot beat that.

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Now… I know this is a blog about everything books.  But McKay’s is in the business of so much more than that.  Think board games, toys, puzzles, DVDs, electronics, comic books… the shelves go on for miles.

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And one thing that I find super unique at McKay’s is how organized it is.  You can walk into most thrift shops and expect to see shelves of junk that have been picked over and are in disarray.  These shelves are borderline immaculate, organized alphabetically by author, and very well maintained.  If you’re allergic to thrift stores, I would consider this place the exception to your allergy.

If you’re looking for fantastic books at a low price, you need to check this place out!

Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club, Romance

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

The Light We LostThe Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another Reese Witherspoon Book Club success!

So let me first just put this disclaimer here. I don’t think this book will be a five star read for everybody. But it was for me. And I will tell you why.

The Light We Lost is a beautifully written story about real life. Plain and simple. I felt like the characters in this story could have walked straight off the pages of this book and walked around today’s society. They were flawed. They were real. They were honest. They struggled. I can’t see how any man or woman who reads this book can’t find something to relate to in one of the character’s stories.

The story is simply about a boy and a girl who connect on 9/11/2001. On that fateful day they find comfort in each other and are bonded to each other for life. Over time, they develop into an emotionally unavailable man whose mission is to make a difference after the events of September 11th and a woman who finds herself madly in love with him. His wanderlust takes him away from her, and as life goes on, she finds another man who makes her feel safe and comfortable, but doesn’t ignite the passion of her first love. She finds herself asking whether fire, passion, and feeling alive with a “wild card” type of man are the key to a happy life or if the key is in the safety, comfort, and security of a man who provides stability and normality.

I think we can all relate to that feeling at one point or another in our lives. Girls who go for the “bad boys” or chase after the wrong men for the thrill, while perfectly nice guys are waiting in the wings wishing they were being chased. That’s an age old story. And if you haven’t been there personally, you know somebody who has.

There is nothing Earth shattering about The Light We Lost. It’s not the world’s most original story. Which is why I say it may not be a five star read for everybody. But, it was such an honest and raw depiction of love and life that I found myself making a strong connection with the main characters and their struggles.

I honestly listened to this book in one sitting straight. It’s a relatively short audiobook at around 7 hours (which took me 3.5 hours to listen to on double speed). While it is kind of depressing and sad, it would still make a good listen for a long car ride.

I’m not a huge romance fan, but this is one that I would highly recommend.

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club, Thriller

Still Lives by Maria Hummel

Still LivesStill Lives by Maria Hummel

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I’m on a quest lately to read all of Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club picks from the last few years. Luckily the library has almost all of them so I’m able to fly right through them. Sorry Reese. Didn’t really love this one as much as I hoped I would!

Everybody is dying to see Kim Lord’s new art exhibit, Still Lives…. a collection of paintings based of photographs of Kim posing as famous dead women. Think Nicole Brown Simpson and The Black Dahlia. Creepy, right? My thought exactly. And imagine everybody’s surprise when Kim Lord is M.I.A. for the opening night of her exhibit. The rumors start circulating. Is this part of the art, or is Kim in danger? Meanwhile a young copy editor for the museum named Maggie finds herself wrapped up in a the scandalous art world, and the more she learns about Kim Lord, the more convoluted the story becomes. Maggie quickly finds herself in the middle of her own investigation into the disappearance of Kim Lord.

I thought the spin on modern art in this book was really evocative and lovely. I appreciated Maria Hummel’s thoughtfulness in designing this somewhat grungy, underground-feeling world of eccentricity. Even though we don’t technically meet Kim Lord’s character, her description was so well done that I felt she was. And the way the art folded into the murder mystery had a wonderful uniqueness that I enjoyed.

What didn’t I like about it? I felt like my interest really ebbed and flowed as the story progressed. There were times when I was really invested and I felt like the story was really grabbing me and then there were times when I felt my mind drifting. Usually when I found myself losing interest in the story, I felt like the story had gone off on a tangent briefly and left me feeling disconnected. And to be honest, the story’s conclusion ended up being a tad too complicated for my liking.

Overall, this book had a ton of potential and I really did enjoy the concept. But the execution fell a little flat for me.

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Mystery, Thriller, Uncategorized

Verity by Colleen Hoover

VerityVerity by Colleen Hoover

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, I have some opinions about this book.

First of all, I’m so darn busy reading ARCs that it is super rare for me to take the time to read a book I actually purchased. This was the exception. I swear that every time I see somebody post a question on social media asking for recommendations for an “un-put-downable” book, I see two resounding answers lately:

No Exit by Taylor Adams (FREAKING AMAZING!)
and
Verity by Colleen Hoover

So here was are. I kept saying to myself that if people were putting Verity in the same category as No Exit, I just had to read it. And while I think it was very, very good (and I hate to compare), I didn’t find it quite as exciting as No Exit. But for me, that’s a really hard book to beat.

Verity is the story of a young writer named Lowen who is hired to finish the last few books in a famous book series written by Verity Crawford. Verity was recently in a tragic car accident that left her in a vegetative state, unable to finish her life’s work. When Lowen visits Verity’s home for research, she finds herself awkwardly living under the same roof as invalid Verity, her husband Jeremy, and son Crew. Suddenly, spooky and strange things start happening and Lowen wonders if she’s slowly going insane or if there is something unusual happening in the family home. Will she figure it out before it is too late?

I read this book extremely quickly. I very much enjoyed the format in which it was written. There were portions written from Lowen’s perspective and interspersed throughout the story where “chapters” of Verity’s autobiography, discovered by Lowen in the family home. The autobiography chapters serve to provide the reader with the backstory of Verity’s marriage to Jeremy. Every time I finished a chapter, I wanted to know what would happen next. I would absolutely categorize this book as a page turner.

While at a high level, I really enjoyed it, I think the one thing that brought it down to a 4 star read for me was the “believability” factor. There were a couple times where I just struggled to see the reality and felt like certain elements were far reaching (P.S. I do realize thrillers are often far fetched so I try to keep an open mind going in).

I would absolutely recommend this book, and think it was a fantastic read, particularly if you have the time to sit down and dedicate a few solid hours in a row. Because once you pick it up, you won’t want to put it down.

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Audiobook Review, Mystery, Thriller

Freefall by Jessica Barry

FreefallFreefall by Jessica Barry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I only had a few days left on my hold at the library for Freefall and I kept telling myself I had to read it before it was gone. And I did just that! Powered through in time to return it back so some other intrigued reader could enjoy. The magic of the library, folks! It’s real… and you already pay for it.

Anyway, I’ll end my P.S.A. here before I start shouting from the rooftops about your tax dollars…

Opening scene:
Allison has just survived a fatal plane crash. She is hurt and she is alone.

Scene 2:
Maggie gets word that her daughter Allison has died in the plane crash, but refuses to believe she is gone

Scene 3 – ???:
Allison tries to survive. Maggie fights to find her. A bunch of twisty, sinister stuff happens in between.

The best thing about this book for me was the story itself. I enjoyed the directions it took, and it always kept me wanting to know what would happen next. I thoroughly enjoyed the strained and fragile relationship dynamic between Allison and her mother. It added another layer to the story that wouldn’t have been achieved had their relationship been all peachy and wonderful.

The hardest part for me was following the timeline. There were points in the story where I found myself questioning whether I was in the present or in the past. There were several different “past” stories that tied into the larger picture, but it was sometimes hard to follow. It also may have been made harder by listening on audiobook rather than reading. I tend to find that’s the case more often than not with books that bounce back and forther.

This was my first book by Jessica Barry and I enjoyed her writing very much. Would read her works again in the future.

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