BOOK CLUB: The Book Ninja

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Author: Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus
ISBN: 9781925640298
RRP: $29.99
Publication Date: 1st June 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

The Book Ninja is unique, it’s witty and it’s intriguing and there was a lot that I loved about it. I am now sitting here trying to work out how to tackle a review, how I felt about it and what I want to say. There are a lot of elements that I adore but when it all comes together and I look at it as a whole I have mixed feelings and I can’t convincingly put my finger on why.

Frankie and Cat are best friends, have been forever, and they share everything with one another… until they don’t. Their relationship dynamic was fun, there is a lot of banter and good natured ribbing but there are an inordinate number of nicknames. I thought that was quite a quirky touch and it amused me because I am one who loves to have a long list of nicknames up my sleeve, unfortunately my children don’t agree. Not only are they best friends but they also run a Melbourne bookshop together, inherited by Cat’s husband.

It has a bookshop, what’s not to love. It is a story inhabited by book lovers of every shape, size and genre and the literary title dropping is epic. The bookish banter is non-stop from quotes to comparisons and, of course, nicknames. This is one of the elements I loved. Bookshops are my happy place and I loved the literary name dropping because I wanted to know what would be next.

The premise is actually pretty novel, (hehe) and I enjoyed it. It is something I hadn’t heard a lot about but random acts of book sharing are becoming quite popular. There are little roadside libraries popping up all over the place that offer free book swaps, movements that see the book you finish on the plane being left for someone else to come along and find and the Books on the Rail movement founded by Ali and Michelle in Melbourne (which is now spreading it’s carriages across the country). In The Book Ninja there’s a twist to the random book dropping, it’s not just to share great literature but to help tragically single Frankie Rose find a boyfriend.

The characters, now here’s where my mixed feelings come in. The characters were an endless source of entertainment, they amused me, but I just didn’t like them very much. Their behaviour throughout the book was dishonest, secretive and selfish. They seemed to be connected only to their own best interests and they frustrated me no end.

Frankie Rose is a little lost in her life, she has had two novels published and the second one amassed some pretty nasty reviews which saw young Frankie put down the pen and walk away from her dreams, all her literary passion to be quenched by reading the never-ending supply of new material constantly arriving at the bookstore. Her long term relationship is over and she’s almost ready to get back out there but nothing she’s tried has worked. Inspiration strikes and she embarks on an experiment that sees her leaving copies of her favourite books on trains with her contact details printed in them; in the hopes that likeminded men will find them and get in touch.

All good social experiments require recording, and in this case Frankie decided to put fingers to keyboard and begin a blog, which gives us a fabulous format for the book. It’s told through a range of storytelling mediums from narrative, emails, message interaction and blog posts. The mix of mediums keeps the story fresh and the wit razor sharp. The issue is that the behaviour of the characters is less than desirable.

I read an uncorrected proof of the copy and I’m not sure what changes would have been made between my reading and the printing of the book so I’m not sure if I should even mention it, in case it’s gone, but the timeline just didn’t seem to flow the way it should. It almost seemed to me like all the different events seemed to happen on their own timeline and they didn’t always run together. I completely lost track of the narrative and one of the characters for a while and then just as I started wondering what was going on, she was back.

As I was reading I kept wondering just how much the book has in common with the lives of the authors because there are some similarities there but I think that was just me wandering off track for a while.

The writing flowed beautifully, but you do need to make timeline allowances, the prose was punchy and engaging and the basic premise was intriguing. The characters were at times painful and they’re behaviour was pretty deplorable, I wanted to like them but they just did some pretty selfish and terrible things that I couldn’t get past.  The secondary characters were all as quirky as they come and it was amusing trying to juggle the sheer volume of quirky in one, relatively small, group of people. The behaviour wasn’t bad enough that any of them were irredeemable but I couldn’t be in their corner cheering them on for their happy ever after.

Another of the elements I loved is the organ donor plotline that explores the need for more publicity so that more people will become organ donors and potentially save lives. What I really loved about it was the way it was done. Graphic imagery, with literary ties, that will jump up and down to get your attention and remind you of the importance of organ donation.

The Book Ninja is a story that I would recommend, I did enjoy it; just be aware that the characters behave pretty badly. It’s a light-hearted read that’s good for a giggle; with a splash of romance, a dash of banter and a bucketload of bookishness.

The Book Ninja is book #25 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.

Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus can be found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and their website.

The Book Ninja is published June 1st by Simon and Schuster and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster 30 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading The Book Ninja so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

28 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Book Ninja

  1. Thank you Simon & Schuster, and Beauty & Lace, for the opportunity to read “The Book Ninja”..
    I was like a few others, and found it didn’t flow very well in the first 1/2 or so, and the fact that blogs were being written. wasn’t really evident.
    The behaviour of some of the characters is quite appalling, yet also funny at the same time.
    It really is a quirky sort of ‘looking for Mr Right” love story, focusing mainly on Frankie, the main character, but also on her best friend, Cat.
    Twists and turns, and some hilarious antics and first dates, make for a fun read.
    I just might try this method of looking for Mr Right myself!
    Not my favourite book, but an easy read and a bit of fun.

  2. First up i would like to Thank Beauty and Lace and Simon Schuster for allowing me to read thos book.

    I quite enjoyed reading the book ninja although it took me a few chapters to get in tune.

    I thouroughly enjoyed the plot of frankie trying to find love by leaving her details in books on trains in an effort to meet someone with the same taste. The characters were great, funny and alot of the time selfish but relatable to some degree. Although admittedly i probably wouldnt forgive as quickly or easily myself.

    I especially loved the fact that texts and facebook posts etc were included as it made it feel more modern and realistic to the times.

    This book is very easy to read, and i think ideally would suit an age group of between 20 to 30 years.

    Only negative would be that i think the timeline was a bit off in the beginning but otherwise a great read.

  3. Thanks beauty and lace and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read The Book Nijnja.
    I loved this book from start to finish it was a 5 Star read. The references of novels was fantastic. Having the list at the end of the book for future reading was a bonus!
    This was a quick moving, entertaining and humourous story. Loved the characters and was sad when I finished it.
    Highly recommended

  4. The Book Ninja was a very enjoyable read. The main character is Frankie, who is an an author of two books, gets awful reviews and decides to give up writing.
    She has a love of books but lacking love in her life, so decides to leave books with her contact details on the trains. Through this she goes on many dates and adventures.
    A lovely easy read, with an interesting ending!

  5. The Book Ninja – I loved this book ! Very entertaining light hearted reading, I found it hard to put down. Would recommend to everyone

  6. Now I need to be honest and say that The Book Ninja probably wasn’t a book I would have chosen on the shelf but after reading it I’m sorry I judged a book by its cover!

    From the very first page I was hooked. I loved the references to local areas and classic novels. I felt like I was part of the story, like it was me finding the books. The story line was magnificent and I couldn’t put it down! I spent far too long reading this book at night (lots of coffee needed the next day!)

    I would love to read more by Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus – thank you Beauty & Lace and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read this amazing book!

  7. This book was a lot of fun and I really liked the characters. The books, the dates, the knitting, the pregnancy, and all the different quirky family members made me smile and on occasion, laugh out loud. Also made me have that little yearn for a bookstore that occasionally creeps up on me.

    I would love to have Frankie and Cat in my life as two friends you catch up with once every couple of months to just regale in their antics and their very lovely lives.

    Thanks Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read. Not one I would have necessarily purchased so really glad I had the opportunity to read and review.

  8. A light-hearted and entertaining read with a cast of quirky, funny and at times exasperating group of characters. I enjoyed the use of mixed social media to tell The Book Ninja’s story and found myself laughing out loud throughout. Loved the literary references, with many of my favourites getting a mention. Perfect travel or holiday book or when you just don’t feel like getting into something too heavy but still want to get the feels.

    I read Book Ninja independently after seeing it on social media and I’m glad I did!

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