Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

by Robin Sloan
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.
Out of a job during the recession, Clay Jannon happens upon a 24-hour book store that needs a clerk on the night shift. Clay really knows coding and the internet a lot better than books, but he can climb a ladder and help the few people who frequent the store. The regular customers turn out to be eccentrics who borrow obscure tomes from what Clay terms the "Waybacklist," and he soon becomes convinced that the bookstore is merely a front for something else...

I tried to think of what I might compare this to, and the best I can come up with is it's like Ready Player One for book lovers. There's a mystery surrounding books, a delightful bookstore that is open all day (who wouldn't love that?), and a wisecracking clerk all wrapped up in an homage to the delights of reading. As much as I can try to describe it, however, there's really nothing that I can say to describe the pleasure I felt every time I opened up the pages. I had a smile on my face to the very last sentence.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald
New York: Scribner, 1996 (originally published 1925)

Nick Carraway goes East, living on the portion of Long Island known as "West Egg," where he meets Jay Gatsby, his neighbor, a rich man who gives elaborate parties for a hundred guests, yet no one seems to really know him.

This read to me as a sort of "lives of the rich and famous" of the 1920s. Nick's crowd - his cousin Daisy, her husband Tom, their friend Jordan, and Gatsby - are all rich and cynical and somehow apart from it all. Nick especially, though he is our narrator, is an observer in this drama, leaving the reader removed, in a way, from the characters and events as they play out.

Regular readers of this blog may know that I very seldom write about book I didn't enjoy. Classics are my one exception. Truthfully, I didn't dislike Gatsby so much as I felt ambivalent about it. I didn't like most of the characters, and I didn't particularly like what they did most of the time. Perhaps I wasn't supposed to, because as I look back on it, they're all sort of self-absorbed and superficial, but for me it's really hard to enjoy a book when I dislike whom I'm reading about. The narrative does have themes that would be interesting to explore as a class or in a paper. I found myself wishing that I had read it for English class, as I really would have benefited from a little bit of guidance and the sort of analysis that comes with the need to write a paper on it. As it was, I finished the book feeling like I'd missed something. I'm glad to have read it, but it's not going to stand out as a favorite.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Crown of Embers

by Rae Carson
New York : Greenwillow Books, 2012.

***Second in a series - spoiler warning for The Girl of Fire and Thorns.***

As the new queen, Elisa knows she has to be a strong ruler in the midst of turmoil at court. She's shown her mettle in battle, but still doesn't know why she is the Godstone bearer of this century, and what great service that means she must perform.

I really enjoy this series because Elisa is such a fresh and interesting character. She isn't your average kick-butt heroine. She does what she has to do, but she's sometimes unsure of herself and struggles with her conscience over her actions as ruler and as a person. Though it had been awhile since I read the first book, I didn't feel at all lost picking this one up as important plot points were reintroduced subtly and as-needed throughout the story. And then there's the pacing, which is pitch-perfect, pageturning without getting frantic. I started reading it before bed a couple of nights ago, and before I knew it, I had read for a couple of hours and was over 100 pages into it. It's just that hard to find a stopping point, because I want to know what happens next to the characters I've come to love.