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Showing posts from April, 2014

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (♦♦♦♦½)

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During the height of the latest recession, newly-minted designer Clay Jannon loses his job in a start-up company and is forced to screen job postings looking for a new position. He finds it at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. His job comes with three requirements that are not to be agreed upon lightly. Jannon is assigned the night shift.
As days go by, Jannon starts wondering what kind of establishment is this bookstore in which hardly anyone buys anything. The clientele is unusual and the stock eclectic leaning towards the strange.
Soon Jannon’s friends come to visit the store and his curiosity is piqued to the point of embarking (unbeknownst to him) in a quest to discover the existence of a secret fellowship and a centuries-old mystery.
I lovedMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I had so much fun that lost my sleep during the three nights I was reading the novel and I can effectively say that I haven’t had as much fun with a book since…ever?! When I wasn’t laughing out loud I was smilin…

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (♦♦♦♦)

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The lives of the journalists at an international English-language newspaper in Rome unfold before our very eyes through articles/vignettes.
The Imperfectionists consists of ten vignettes. It opens up with Lloyd's story, a journalist whose best days are long gone and hardly has enough money to pay rent. Then follows Arthur, a fifty-something year-old without much ambition who writes the obituaries, and whose father was a famous war correspondent. The third, fourth and fifth vignettes focus on relationships. First is Hardy’s, the woman who covers business at the paper and who finds herself entangled with a good-for-nothing boyfriend. Next is Herman’s, who has put his friend Jimmy on a pedestal since they were boys. Then follows Kathleen's story. Kathleen is the editor-in-chief. She has recently discovered that her husband has had an affair and feels less hurt than she should be.
Next is the story of Winston, a biology graduate student who has forsaken academia for journalism. Wins…

Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen (♦♦♦)

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Convent of Our Lady of Sorrows, Arcadia, New York, 1906-1907.
Seventeen year-old Mariette Baptiste enters the convent as a postulant to become a nun following in the steps of her blood sister Annette who is known as Mother Superior Celine. Mariette is pious, virtuous, and very pretty, which garners her general approval. As months pass by, Mariette integrates fully to the religious life, but soon after her first three months are up, tragedy strikes and Mariette starts experiencing preternatural phenomena such as having the injuries of Christ during the Crucifixion, otherwise known as stigmata...But is Mariette's ecstasy real or the product of a disturbed mind?
I liked Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen. The book is written beautifully, but in a non-traditional style, integrating descriptive passages with inquiries about the true nature of Mariette's experience as seen and understood by members of her religious order. I happen to think that Mariette's ecstasy was real even when…

Ravens by George Dawes Green (♦♦♦½)

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Brunswick, Georgia.
Housewife Patsy Boatwright plays the lottery with abandon every time she can. Her children and husband already know her rituals: sipping drink after drink every Wednesday night in front of the TV until she passes up drunk and unhappy because she wasn’t lucky. This time something is different because Patsy hits the jackpot with $318M (the lump sum is roughly $120M). The Boatwrights start dreaming of untold riches and swear secrecy but Jase, the youngest child, tells a friend at school and the news spread as wildfire.
Shaw and Romeo are two IT techs that have abandoned their lives in Ohio and taken to the road, destination Florida. Once there they plan to work and save enough money to spend the rest of their lives in the Caribbean. Shaw and Romeo pass through Brunswick on their way to Florida the morning after the lottery drawing, and stop by at the same gas station where the ticket was sold. When TV vans begin to gather in anticipation of the announcement of a winner,…

The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett (♦♦♦♦)

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Egypt, WWII. Erwin Rommel is leading German troops, victory after victory over British forces. He has much to thank to a German-Arab named Alex Wolff; code-name Sphinx, Wolff is a German spy who is lifting secrets fresh from British intelligence headquarters in Cairo. Associated with Wolff is Cairo’s most famous belly dancer, Sonja, with whom he is having a steamy affair.
Hot on Wolff’s tail is Major William Vandam, the man in charge of safeguarding British intelligence. Vandam is not only after Wolff, but after the secret code he uses to encode his messages. It’s known that Wolff uses Rebecca, Daphne De Maurier’s novel in English, as his code. Now Vandam needs the key. Only a young, seductive Egyptian Jew will have an excuse to access the radio, the code and the key, but will she be able to get them on time before Germans march triumphantly over Cairo…?
I liked The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett. While it’s not on the same level as Eye of The Needle, it’s definitely much more accomplish…