October Minireviews (+ #20Booksof Summer … still!)

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – 4*

//published 2012//

As I’ve mentioned, a while ago I signed up to be part of a Traveling Book Club, where each member choose a book to share.  The first month you mail your own book to the next person on the list and receive a book from the person behind you on the list.  Each month you mail whatever book you have until you get your own back.  In the meantime, members are encouraged to annotate and make notes in the books, so that when you get yours back it will be full of fun thoughts from its journey.  (You can see the list of these reads here.)  I was excited to get this book in the mail, because it’s one I’ve read – and enjoyed – before, so it was extra fun to see other people’s thoughts and insights.  One of the earlier readers is a computer programmer, so it was especially interesting to see her thoughts on some of the computer-y aspects of the story.

I liked this book just as much the second time around.  Clay is such an entertaining and likable narrator, and while the story does get a bit ridiculous at times, it’s always a good time.  Still an easy 4* read.

False Colours by Georgette Heyer – 4.5*

//published 1963//

I know that I have read this Heyer before, but apparently I never reviewed it at that time!  This is an especially fun one – when Kit comes home from his diplomatic job abroad to check in with his widowed mother and his twin brother, his twin is missing.  His mother, a rather capricious but likable lady, persuades Kit to take his brother’s place at an important dinner – just for that night.  Needless to say, and entire tangle ensues.  The whole story is just absolutely delightful.  I really like Kit a lot, and it was fun to have a character who isn’t the oldest son and doesn’t want to be!  Even though it seems like the whole thing should be ridiculous, Heyer somehow makes it feel plausible.  I will say that the ending felt a little too tidy, with everyone planning out how they were going to fix things, but the story ends before things are actually fixed!  It would have been nice to see things actually play out.  Still, a very fun and lighthearted read.

Terms of Service by Scott Allan Morrison – 3.5*

//published 2015//

This is one of those Kindle books I’ve had forever, and now that I’m committed (ha) to getting through my Kindle backlog, I finally got around to reading it.  While this was a decent one-time thriller, the plot was rather scattered and convoluted, and the message wasn’t super clear.  I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to trust social media or never use it again.  It was weird because this was written in 2015, but the whole story is about a presidential election that gets influenced by social bots.  What honestly blew my mind about this story was the number of people who let themselves be completely swayed on huge, important issues by total strangers on the internet.  Like, if they present a convincing argument that’s worth looking into, that’s one thing.  But just being persuaded by things like, “Wow, this guy really has some good things to say!” seems completely ridiculous to me, but apparently is exactly what people do in real life.  (See: Reasons I Don’t Do Facebook)

I think I would have liked this whole book better if the overall message had been a little clearer, but Morrison’s conclusion is basically like, “Yeah, people in charge of social media pretty much control what the masses think and do, but we’re all way into it and the positives outweigh the negatives so…”  Overall, this book had its engaging moments, but it wasn’t really the kind of thriller that made me want to rush out and see what else Morrison has written.

Utah Lion by James Ralph Johnson – 4*

//published 1962//

My great-grandma was an elementary school teacher, and when she passed away back when I was in middle school, I inherited some of her fiction books she used in her class.  I kind of wish she was still around so I could ask her if she actually used Utah Lion for teaching purposes or if it was just a book that the kids could read if they wanted to.

The story, as the title implies, is about a wild mountain lion in Utah, presumably around the time this book was published in the 1960’s.  It has a very Jim Kjelgaard feel to the overall story, including the verging-on-polemic message about the importance large predators play in the overall balance of nature.  Johnson weaves an interesting tale, although ironically he was so convincing about the dangers (from men) that lions face, that I wasn’t genuinely convinced that Blue Tom and his mate were genuinely going to survive and help repopulate the lions in Utah.  At the end of Johnson’s story, nothing had really changed to make life any easier for mountain lions, so it just seemed like they would keep getting hunted until they were dead, which was kind of discouraging.

Still, this was overall a solid read if, like me, you enjoy random outdoorsy stories.  Unlike most of Kjelgaard’s books, this one focused on the lion and not on a parallel human, which definitely meant that all of my sympathies were with the lion!

NB Utah Lion was originally a selection I made for #20BooksofSummer.  I didn’t finish reading my list by the end of summer, but I am trying to finish it by the end of the year!!

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore // by Robin Sloan

//published 2012//

This was the third book I received for my Mr. B’s Book Emporium subscription, and it was yet another book I already had on my TBR, making them 3/3!  I really enjoyed this book a great deal.  It had some fun adventures, some great characters, and a satisfying ending.

Our narrator is Clay, who begins the book unemployed in San Francisco.  Through a bit of serendipity, he walks past a Help Wanted sign in the window of a musty bookstore – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, in fact.  When Clay begins working as the night clerk there, he realizes that there is a lot more going on besides selling books.

It’s hard to tell a lot about this book without giving things away, so I’ll leave it at that.  Clay ends up on some rollicking adventures with some old friends and some new ones, and it’s a really good time.  There were so many things about this book that I really enjoyed.  I liked Clay himself, and loved basically all the other characters as well, so I was really invested in their discoveries.  I loved the way that Sloan works in Clay’s favorite epic fantasy series and uses it as a catalyst for so much of what happens.  Clay is just enough of a geek to make this book super fun.

“Besides,” I say, “I’m the rogue in this scenario.”

Kat raises an eyebrow and I explain quietly, “He’s the warrior, you’re the wizard, I’m the rogue.  This conversation never happened.”

For the most part, I enjoyed Clay’s narration, although the tenses didn’t always seem to flow right.  However, there were moments when the line between what Clay is thinking and what Clay is saying out loud gets blurred and it happened just often enough to annoy me.

We are in the Gourmet Grotto … It’s downtown, right next to the cable-car terminus …  The Gourmet Grotto is its food court, probably the  best in the world: all locally grown spinach salads and pork belly tacos and sushi sans mercury.  Also, it’s below-ground, and it connects directly to the train station, so you never have to walk outside.  Whenever I come here, I pretend I’m living in the future and the atmosphere is irradiated and wild bands of biodiesel bikers rule the surface.  Hey, just like the Singularity, right?

Kat frowns. “That the twentieth-century future.  After the Singularity, we’ll be able to solve those problems.”

So at what point did the first paragraph stop being Clay’s narration/explanation for the reader, and start being something he was saying out loud to Kat?  It really isn’t clear, and for some reason got on my nerves, especially since it happened pretty regularly.

But overall this book was just so much fun that I wanted it to keep going forever.  4/5 for a really happy, fun, thought-provoking book – recommended.