Book Review: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson, Fascinating and Charming

Trying to find books like the one I just finished writing, fiction ones that deal with dreams but that aren’t necessarily fantasy, I asked for some recommendations from my Facebook book club friends. The Bookseller, by Cynthia Swanson, was a book that was highly recommended. I just finished it, and while it didn’t have anything in common with my book other than the main character has vivid dreams, it was a highly enjoyable read because of its amazing execution, relaxed style, charming setting, and final truth.

Book Review: The Bookseller

The Bookseller is about a woman, Kitty Miller, who owns a bookstore with her best friend, Frieda. They’re both single and childless, content with their imperfect but uncomplicated lives. Then Kitty starts having vivid recurring dreams of another life altogether, in which she’s married to a wonderful man, has beautiful children, and a perfect house. At first, she enjoys these nighttime excursions. But, as they become more frequent and vivid, she starts to wonder what’s real and what’s not. She investigates the things she dreamed about when she wakes up, as the man she’s married to actually existed.

It’s set in early 1960’s, in Denver, Colorado. Swanson masterfully weaves the details of what life would’ve been like then and in that location into Kitty’s tale, into her reactions to “current” events like the Cuban missile crisis, into her fashion sense, which is an emulation of Jackie Kennedy’s, and into her investigations of both her dream and real worlds. If I had to describe the setting in one word, it would be really hard to pick, but I would call it “charming.” Kitty, or Katharyn as she is called in her dream world, becomes keenly aware of the attributes of both, desirous as she becomes to figure out which one is real.

Similar to the 1998 movie Sliding Doors, Bookseller’s plot advances on parallel examinations of those worlds. It’s fascinating, really, how  Swanson’s style reflects Kitty’s uncomplicated, earnest, perceptive personality, but yet reveals someone who has very real reactions to deep, deep hurts, which form the book’s final truths.

So, on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the best, I rate this a 9, maybe even a 9.5. The only thing that keeps me from giving it a full 10 is that sometimes the descriptions of things and people tended to get a little bit long. In typing this review, I discovered that it’s $1.99 on Kindle. It’s easily worth that much, if not full price. I also finished A Million Worlds with You by Claudia Gray, one of the sequels of Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray, which I reviewed here. I think part of the reason I liked Bookseller so much is that it was such a smooth read after the turbulence (fun turbulence, but turbulence nonetheless) of Ten Thousand Skies.

And as I mentioned, I finished writing my second book. Briefly, here’s what it’s about:

A girl whose dreams come at the cost of her memory. A grandma who thinks she can read them. A country, defending itself against invaders, possibly on the brink of war.

Her dreams might be the only things that can keep them safe.

I’m getting it ready to be beta-read, and then I’ll start querying and pitching this one. Keep your fingers crossed for me that this one will get published!

I’ll be reviewing Ever the Hunted by Erin Summeril next, so stay tuned!

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