January 20, 2016

Blog Tour: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald | Review + Sweepstakes Campaign + Giveaway!

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  • Title: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
  • Author: Katarina Bivald
  • Genre: Fiction; Contemporary
  • Pub. Date: January 19, 2016 by Sourcebooks Landmark


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 pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy's funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don't understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that's almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend's memory. All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.


Honestly speaking, I was worried of not enjoying this book ‘cause it’s been a while since I picked up a fiction (could it be Sparks’ The Best of Me which I read last August?). As much as I love contemporary books, I always find myself picking up YA a lot more than fiction or chick-lit ones. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend proved me wrong. If any, this book made a ‘fiction-enjoyer’ side of me blooming again after hiding somewhere for months.

Story line
Book-lover Sara Lindqvist couldn’t be any happier when Amy, her elderly pen-pal, invited her to come to her hometown in Iowa, United States. Broken Wheel was the name of the town Amy had been telling Sara again and again through the letters they’ve been exchanging with from the past two years. Amy’s story made it sound so much like a dream-town for Sara, especially since she hadn’t ever gone out of her hometown of Haninge, Sweden all her life. Befriending three people and an unlimited number of books had always been enough before. But Amy had introduced her to a place across the sea for Sara to escape for a while. And to enjoy it with fellow book-lover? It would be one big step for Sara to come out of her comfort zone and lead a life like any other woman her age do: visit new places, meet new people. Of course, with a company of her long life best-friend, books.
Sara could already imagine how the trip would be: meeting Amy, reading and book-talking with her day and night, meeting everyone in town whose story she already knew from Amy’s letters, walking along Jimmie Coogan street or just doing any other things that Amy promised Sara could do in a quiet and peaceful small town of Broken Wheel.
What Sara didn’t expect was to find a literally broken and dying town with its population had just finished a funeral ceremony of an old lady. No one to visit any longer and practically nothing in town to see, Sara had to bury all the dreams she had in mind about her so-called vacation. But apparently without Amy or any tourist-y spot, Broken Wheel still managed to make Sara keeping her vacation schedule on. In fact, she even wanted to stay longer than her visa let her to.

Book Friendship
Told in third person omniscient POV, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend portrayed every corner of Broken Wheel vastly from various angles. Sara might be the center of the story (a.k.a. the heroine) but Bivald made the others’ story as important as hers. This is because The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is simply a story of how a dying small town starts a friendship with books. Sara represented ‘the books’ while some residents play the role of the town.

Right People, Wrong Place
Each person living in the said town had their own share of sorrows from different past tragedies. There were loss, injustice rights, negative judgment, self-insecurity, bad business, unexpected turn of events, and even unhappy marriage, all contributed to Broken Wheel’s constant dreary aura. Some left the town and never came back, resulting in a lot of empty spaces there, both physically and mentally. Those who stay were barely hanging on with their life. When Sara came, I found it endearing how everyone was curious and excited of the potential tourist. Sara quickly became the town’s shared guest rather than just Amy’s. Turned out Broken Wheel was nothing like its outward appearance. People there might not all have a good life, but they make a good small society together. They had a high tolerance for each other, strong loyalty, and offered most excellent hospitality to newcomer albeit their gloomy streets. Sara’s existence among them only emphasized their hidden charms with the way they eagerly treated her so good.

Bookworm + Sweet Heroine = 
Sara, who never really felt such acceptance from others before quickly fell in love with Broken Wheel and its people. Yet as much as she enjoyed their sweet friendliness: complete free of facilities and necessities, Sara couldn’t let these people continue pampering her throughout her stay. Knowing the history of Broken Wheel and people who’d been living in it through Amy’s letters, Sara knew exactly how to repay the town back. Book was definitely the answer and since Amy had lots of them: a bookstore it was. What started as a form of payback―which earned plenty raised eyebrows from the people―eventually became the center that held the town together. Skepticism toward the bookstore slowly shifted into feelings of proud, oddly needing, and even some sense of belonging―just like how Sara felt about the Broken Wheel in return. Sara’s the main character that I’m sure all readers, especially hardcore book lover, could easily relate with. I found myself keep comparing my reading-habits with hers from page to page and got quite a lot similarity between us. I could even relate with her social life, being a book-lover and all. Her determined self and her love of books succeeded in giving the town what they truly needed but never figured out what. Sara’s creativity is also something that attracted me to her character. Her idea of unconventional yet striking shelf title was definitely amazing! If only we have a bookshop assistant like her in our town…

Let’s Move... to Broken Wheel!
I could not not talk about the people of Broken Wheel here. First impression about them I got from the scene of Sara’s arrival might not show anything engaging. But throughout the story, the delineation started to take shape as each resident made an appearance one after another and the story took turns focusing on them. I am personally drawn to George’s character, a fifty-something ex-alcoholic who nursed a deep longing to meet his daughter for years. His loyalness to Sara was really touching. Besides him, the other characters like Caroline, Jen, Grace, Andy, John, and Tom each has different personalities which made their small group even more interesting. The quirkiness of certain characters, the rigidness, the skeptical, and the overtly-worry habit created such unique combination that amusing and heartwarming at the same time. And the best part? These people loved plotting so much! There was this scene when a neighbor town looked condescendingly toward Broken Wheel’s new bookstore and Andy, being an enthusiast he is, plotted a scheme to defend the bookstore which already became part of their town. The plan was simple (rather a disaster, actually, and goodness! I couldn’t stop laughing those entire two chapters…) yet the purpose behind it was really deep. Reading about these people makes me feel like packing up my bags and moving in to Broken Wheel. And this is the feeling that I’m sure would not be solely mine.

Book about Books
I’ve never really read book about books before. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend managed to give me quite an excellent first experience in this. There was a lot of discussion about books ranging from classic to nowadays favorites. I also deeply enjoyed so many agreeable book-related opinions presented here. I love how the author threaded every scene with books, enriching the ‘book-about-books’ quality within, such as when she connected certain moments with analogies to the storyline from some popular books. The way Bivald wrote every part about books gave a clear impression of how much she loved books. There was a paragraph telling sixteen years old Sara broken down on the amount of classics books in the library she visited, worrying she could not read all of them even if she dedicates all her life just for reading. It strangely left me with a really warm feeling. Putting aside the other elements of the book, the scene of young Sara itself already successfully showed that it’s possible for someone to fall so deeply in love with books. It’s kind of beautiful and I, as an avid reader, found it quite magical.

Amy: A Pleasant (nonexistent) Character
Not having a physical appearance within the story didn’t lessen Amy’s role. Bivald built Amy’s character through series of letters she sent to Sara and spread the letters to each fitting chapters making it as if Amy was still there, among the other characters. Amy’s wisdom and passion that was captured on the letters indirectly became the bridge that connects people of Broken Wheel and Sara. And even without ‘meeting’ Amy in person, the readers still got a clear picture of what kind of character she is: an old lady who once, too, made a mistake in life yet found a warm solace through books and good companies.

Final Thought(s)
Despite its predictable ending (and cliché closing words), I felt like finding a warm closure in the end of the book. Some chapters were titled by score marks between ‘books’ and ‘life’ as to present Sara’s preference of books over life. The epilogue terminated the final result in which Bivald showed that both books and life, albeit their different ways, give a similar kind of comfort if being put in good balance. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend might be a book dedicated to books, but the author didn’t forget to slip an essential message that life and all the realities in it could be as good as book. Sara, though she’d been working among books for years, got to learn this important lesson in a town whose people hardly ever touch a book before. It’s kind of ironic yet aptly realistic and even brilliance to put it that way.

To the readers who in need of a good reminder of why they fall in love with books, Katarina Bivald’s The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend provides a pleasant answer in 400 pages of endearing journey of Sara, Broken Wheel town, and books that connect them.


Independent publisher Sourcebooks announces the “Readers, Recommend Your Bookstore” campaign, which will give grant money to three nominated bookstores. The “Readers, Recommend Your Bookstore Campaign” is inspired by the phenomenal support booksellers have given The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, which was selected as the #1 Indie Next Great Read for January 2016

Anyone can nominate their favorite bookstore at:

Sourcebooks will award the winning bookstore with a $3,000 prize; two additional bookstores will each receive a $637 prize (the population of Bivald's fictional Broken Wheel, Iowa). In addition to bookstores receiving prizes, weekly giveaways for those who nominate will be held throughout the campaign. Voting began January 4, and runs until February 19, when the winning bookstores will be announced!


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Katarina Bivald grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Today she lives in Alta, Sweden, with her sister and as many bookshelves as she can squeeze in. She has still not decided whether she prefers books or people. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is her first novel.


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