Image shows a green female ogre holding a bun, carrying a sword and an an open book, a rat with a quill pen and a notebook, and a pet that looks like a dog with an owl head. They are all in a bookshop. Text reads: Bookshops & Bonedust Travis Baldree New York Times Bestselling Author." Cover blurb says: "'A warm hug of a book.'–T Kingfisher on Legends & Lattes."

Viv on How to Live

BOOKSHOPS & BONEDUST rating: 4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐. Audiobook will bump it to 5.

This honest, big-hearted orc knows what’s good. Wherever Viv is planted, she blooms. BOOKSHOPS & BONEDUST by Travis Baldree (Tor/Macmillan, November 7, 2023) is a prequel to LEGENDS & LATTES (Tor/Macmillan, November 8, 2022), which proved that the Tiktok kids are sometimes right on the money with their #Booktok recommendations, CoHo1Booktok moniker for Colleen Hoover. notwithstanding.

Sidelined from mercenary work due to a bad injury, Young Viv lands in a coastal town called Murk and proceeds to make it less murky. There’s a bookshop. There’s a bakery. There are dear and charming friends to be made. Except for the hilarious character associated with the bonedust of the title, these characters didn’t charm me quite as much as the characters in LEGENDS & LATTES, but I guarantee that when Baldree brings them to life as a narrator, I will love them just as much. I dare not reveal more for fear of spoiling it for you, and I’m not sure what the publisher will choose to reveal in future descriptions.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan for sending me this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

I’m a librarian, so. A novel in which a major theme is the power of reading to forge connections between people and fuel self-discovery? Yes please.

What is so satisfying about this novel and Baldree’s smash hit LEGENDS & LATTES? I think it’s just the slow creation of a good life, step by step.

Building things. Making friends. Deepening those friendships and improving the things you’ve built together. I want to hammer in the nails. I want to pick up the paintbrush. I want to eat the scrumptious food in the fine company. My pleasure with Viv’s carefully constructed life grows until I’m as pleased as Ichabod Crane taking stock of the Van Tassel superabundance in THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW (Washington Irving, 1820), as content as Ratty in Mole’s burrow in THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS (Kenneth Grahame, 1908), as secure as if I were AT THE BACK OF THE NORTH WIND (George MacDonald, 1861). I’m Mary Lennox again in THE SECRET GARDEN (Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1911) waiting for Dickon to drop by with some adorable animals.

You get the point. Baldree’s work may be modern and inclusive, but it’s also loaded with old-fashioned sweetness like the work of TJ Klune (see my blog about IN THE LIVES OF PUPPETS).

Any threats to this fantasy paradise, when they do creep up in these stories, are even more threatening than they would be otherwise: as a reader, I want to jump into the book, take up arms and defend this sweet little community myself. I’m that invested; the pacing of the plot is that artfully done by Baldree. Will lose myself in the audiobook, and also order the book from one of my favorite independent bookstores to go right next to LEGENDS & LATTES on my bookshelf.

Reading context:

Included above.

What I’m reading right now:

THE HEAVEN & EARTH GROCERY STORE by James McBride (Riverhead/Penguin Random House, August 8, 2023)

#fantasy #LGBTQ #BookshopsAndBonedust #TravisBaldree #LegendsAndLattes #FoundFamily #TheLegendOfSleepyHollow #WashingtonIrving #TheWindInTheWillows #AtTheBackOfTheNorthWind #GeorgeMacDonald #TheSecretGarden #FrancesHodgsonBurnett #TJKlune #InTheLivesOfPuppets #cozy #booktok