After the recession hits, Clay Jannon finds himself out of a job. He spends hours walking the streets of San Francisco, trying to find something, anytAfter the recession hits, Clay Jannon finds himself out of a job. He spends hours walking the streets of San Francisco, trying to find something, anything. He wanders into Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and finds himself working as a bookstore clerk. But there aren't really very many customers. Well, there are a few impassioned, odd people who come in and request books from what Clay refers to as the "Wayback List," books he's not supposed to look at. He likes Mr. Penumbra and when it starts to look like Mr. Penumbra might be in some kind of trouble, Clay calls in his friends to help the owner out.
Oh. My. Gosh. I enjoyed the heck out of this audio book! I described it to my husband as "The Da Vinci Code for tech-savvy bibliophiles." (I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code so that's a compliment.) People in robes, secret messages, clues, and only one man to tie them together. What's not to love?
I loved the characters. Clay is pretty funny and I loved listening to his internal monologues. I loved Mr. Penumbra's willingness to do whatever he felt needed to be done. And that he was willing to listen to Clay's crazy ideas without being an old codger. He embraced the technology Clay introduced him to! Clay's friends were all pretty funny and talented in their own unique ways too.
I wouldn't describe myself as "tech-savvy," so I have no idea how much of the technology described in here is real and how much is made up. Some of it was pretty cool. And some of it was a little...not so cool. There were some ideas I wouldn't mind discussing in a book group or something. Like how one character who works at Google seems to think that all information should be shared freely. A good idea in theory but if authors aren't getting paid for their writing, how will they have time to write more books for us to read? Stuff like that.
Ari Fliakos did a fabulous job narrating the audio book. I'm so glad I listened to it! I'm sure his delivery added something to the story.
For a fun, hard-to-describe book, give this one a try, especially on audio. I was thoroughly entertained....more
I saw and loved the short film long before I read this book. I was a little anxious when my husband bought the book for me because I wasn't quite cleaI saw and loved the short film long before I read this book. I was a little anxious when my husband bought the book for me because I wasn't quite clear which came first, and would I really like the book as much as the film?
I needn't have worried.
The two are amazingly similar, both being charming and whimsical and just perfect for any reader. I highly recommend this story in any form....more
Fermín Romero de Torres is finally getting married. He's got one problem though--he's living under an assumed name. He has absolutely no proof that heFermín Romero de Torres is finally getting married. He's got one problem though--he's living under an assumed name. He has absolutely no proof that he legally exists. How is he supposed to get married without all the paperwork to prove that he is whom he says he is? As he explains this to Daniel Sempere, his history is finally explained in more detail, as well as his tie to David Martín, hero of The Angel's Game.
Eh. It was better than The Angel's Game but still a long way from The Shadow of the Wind. I love Fermín, so I enjoyed delving into his story, painful as that was. But the plot felt like filler between books. It feels like there has to be a fourth book in this loose series and The Prisoner of Heaven is just a placeholder. There were some revelations that clarified a few points and set up some definite conflict for future books, but there wasn't enough going on to justify an entire book. At least it was short.
I also missed Ruiz Zafón's gorgeous writing. It didn't even feel like the same author/translator team, although it was. It was just a story, pure and simple. I didn't feel any desire to mark any passages at all. I don't know who fell down on the job here, but it just wasn't up to the standard I've set for this pair.
I'll give The Cemetery of Forgotten Books one more try, but I'm starting to wonder if The Shadow of the Wind was just a fluke. I sincerely hope not. ...more
A young woman, out wandering the streets after a fight with her boyfriend, stumbles upon The Night Bookmobile. The books inside are strangely familiarA young woman, out wandering the streets after a fight with her boyfriend, stumbles upon The Night Bookmobile. The books inside are strangely familiar. The librarian tells her that the library contains everything she's ever read in her lifetime. All too soon, dawn comes, the librarian escorts her out the door, and the young woman feels bereft. She can't get The Night Bookmobile out of her mind and she starts to look for it everywhere, choosing her books with the idea of rounding out her collection.
I love this premise. Can you imagine seeing all the words you've ever read in one place? They aren't just books. They're cereal boxes and everything. In my library, that reviled copy of Lord of the Flies would be buried somewhere at the back on a bottom shelf while the works of L. M. Montgomery and Charles de Lint would be well-worn but in places of honor at eye-level at the front. How awesome would that be?
But almost from the beginning, Niffenegger rings a faint warning bell and it gets louder throughout this short piece. It's very well done, and while it's a warning that most devoted readers need to hear, that doesn't mean that I liked what it led to. Holy cow. I flipped forward and back a few times, just to make sure I'd really read what I thought I'd read. I had. Man. I love my books, but...man.
And that's all I'll say about that.
Read it for the idea, but don't expect to be charmed at the end....more
Eleanora Cohen's birth is full of omens. The town where she was born was under siege, her mother died in childbirth, and a flock of exotic hoopoes comEleanora Cohen's birth is full of omens. The town where she was born was under siege, her mother died in childbirth, and a flock of exotic hoopoes come to roost at the house and just stay. Otherwise, her very early years were fairly normal. Her father married his dead wife's sister, who did her duty by Eleanora but little else. When Aunt Ruxandra agreed to start teaching Eleanora to read, she was amazed by how quickly the little girl learned. She was reading fairly complex passages from the encyclopedia by the end of her first day. A superstitious woman, aware of how Jews can so easily be turned on if they are perceived to be the least bit different, Aunt Ruxandra ends the lessons. Eleanora is allowed to read one book per month but no more.
Eleanora makes do the best she can, but when she is eight years old and her father announces that he's leaving for an extended business trip to Stamboul, she knows that she can't stand to be left behind with Ruxandra. She stows away in one of her father's trunks and soon enough finds herself in the exotic city of Stamboul.
I liked this, I really did, but I was seriously left wondering if I had missed something when the audio book ended. I waited and waited for the story to start, and then it felt like it was starting, and then it ended. I just felt that there was a whole lot of build up and not much else. To be fair, I was having some trouble with my car's ipod dock as I listened, so it is entirely possible that I did miss something, but I know I got to the ending. The "where are they now?" epilogue played as well as the credit music. If I missed anything, it wasn't the ending.
Otherwise, I liked little earnest, brilliant Eleanora. She is doing the best she can given her circumstances. She is such a reader that I had to love her. I'm even wondering if her favorite book, The Hourglass, is real. Does anyone out there know? I'd love to read it if it is. She has a strong conscience and does her best to live by it. When asked for her opinion, she honestly weighs all her thoughts before giving it. She is loving and grateful for all that she is given.
The city of Stamboul itself is so vividly depicted that it is a character in its own right. I'm ready to hop on a flight to Turkey to experience the vivid colors and smells for myself.
The narrator, Mozhan Marno, was a great reader but somehow I didn't feel that she necessarily fit this book. She read in an adult woman's voice but I felt that she should have sounded a bit younger since Eleanora is only eight. It's not written in first person but it does mostly stay focused on Eleanora and her thoughts and actions.
I think I was supposed to take away something about choosing your own destiny or something like that but I can't say that I really did. Mostly I just want to know more of Eleanora's story.
I might have enjoyed this more in print, taking my time to linger over the descriptive language. Readers who like Literature and magical realism (surprisingly, I don't always do well with magical realism, despite my love of fantasy), will probably enjoy the book more than I did....more
Lewis Buzbee has worked around books his entire life. He worked at the local bookstore through school, and then he worked as a publisher's rep, and ILewis Buzbee has worked around books his entire life. He worked at the local bookstore through school, and then he worked as a publisher's rep, and I can't even remember what else. This slim, satisfying volume is almost a collection of essays about his thoughts on bookstores, books, readers, and publishing.
I believe I was most excited by the first chapter of this book, "Alone Among Others." I might have things slightly confused, but I believe this was the chapter where the author spelled out the level of his book lust. I'm a voracious reader. I get it. I thought about marking the passages I liked and quickly realized I would be marking everything I was reading.
The book lost me a little after that. I'm not particularly interested in the history of books or how we landed on the perfect shape for a bookstore.
I did like the story of Shakespeare and Co. in Paris and how they came to publish Ulysses and the store's midnight move during WWII.
At the end is a list of some of the author's favorite bookstores from various places. My own local indie, Malaprops, got a mention! It's always exciting to see local favorites mentioned in unexpected places.
I love the size and shape of this book. It's a hardcover but it still fits my hands perfectly, and so I found myself just enjoying the feel of it.
Also, I do love bookstores, but in my heart, I'm a library girl. My mom took my sister and me to the library as far back as I can remember. My first job was at the local library. Even now, when I have stacks upon stacks of books that I own and haven't read yet, the vast majority have come from library book sales and will in all likelihood be donated back for later sales. I get a little overwhelmed in the bookstore. What if I spend all this money on a book and it's not a keeper? I could have just checked it out from the library. Don't get me wrong--I can happily browse in a bookstore for hours, but I'm not all that likely to actually walk out with anything unless an author I love has recently published something that I just have to have.
So that's where my taste and the author's diverged. That doesn't mean the book was bad. Those who do spend more time and money in bookstores will likely take more away from this book....more
Two young men, children of parents that the Communist government in China deems enemies of the state, are basically exiled to a remote mountain for "rTwo young men, children of parents that the Communist government in China deems enemies of the state, are basically exiled to a remote mountain for "re-education." Their parents' "crimes" don't even warrant the word; they're basically just too educated for the government's comfort. The teens find a harsh life waiting for them on the mountain. They must plow fields and dig in mines and haul human waste around. If the local party leader is upset with them, he makes their lives even more miserable.
They eventually meet a local tailor's daughter. The little seamstress, as she's known, is the most beautiful girl on the mountain. One of the teens of course tries to win her heart. He takes a novel approach and starts telling her stories out of Western literature, in an effort to make her better company for himself. And so time passes as the boys wait to see if their period of "re-education" will ever end.
This is so hard for me to review! I had some issues with the boys throughout. Luo, the one who tries to win the girl, is basically a nice guy but--c'mon. He's trying to "improve" the little seamstress? So she'll be a better girlfriend? Who does he think he is? I was listening to this so maybe I misunderstood something, but I really don't think so. But then--I got to the ending. And I loved it. And that's all I can say.
I also loved B. D. Wong's narration. He has a nice voice and a nice delivery. If my library has any more audio books that he's narrated, I'll gladly give them a try.
I enjoyed the imagery in the book as well. It was very short, maybe 4 hours, and enough happened to keep my attention, but at the same time I feel like I can clearly picture this misty Chinese mountain and these harsh rural villages. As someone who likes to use way too many words when writing, I'm impressed when an author can pull this off. And especially considering that the book is a translation. Ina Rilke did a fabulous job with that.
I don't think I've ever heard of Chinese re-education, but what a horrible, effective practice. Take the kids who are going to have the best opportunities at education, and embracing new ideas, and y'know, revolutionary ideas, isolate them and send them out to the wilds to suffer under the hands of uneducated peasants, and you've kind of shut down any immediate governmental threats. Sure, you're probably setting up big trouble for the future, but you've bought yourself time to plan for that. Sheesh. Whose mind comes up with this kind of bs? Can you imagine?
At this length, I would recommend anyone give this book a try. I was surprised and very pleased at the end and I think most readers will be too....more
Mattie Gokey is an intelligent high school senior living in rural New York in 1906. As this book unfolds, we are following two different, intertwinedMattie Gokey is an intelligent high school senior living in rural New York in 1906. As this book unfolds, we are following two different, intertwined arcs of Mattie's life: the earlier months when she is desperate to get to college and the later months when she's working at a summer lake resort where a young couple has just gone missing.
I have neglected writing this review for about two weeks now. I loved this book, and I know that I'm never going to do it justice.
First of all, there's Mattie herself. Do all readers adore books where the main character is reader also, or is it just me? Mattie is a beautiful writer; a voracious, hungry reader; and a word collector. I just loved her. The book is written in first person, and her voice is authentic and beautiful. The edge of my book is a flurry of post-it flags marking quotes that I loved. You know I'm going to quote them at you at the end of this review, right?
She's at that age when the world is open before her, but she has ties tugging her back. You know that feeling that your soul is bigger than your body and you just have to stretch your wings? Mattie describes it perfectly.
A lot of the book centers around the choice that Mattie must make between what she wants and what's expected of her. She's torn and I was so worried about her, all the way through. I desperately wanted her to choose what would make her happy. I just love characters that do that to me.
As Mattie is making her decision, she's reading letters left behind by the lady who is missing. These are real letters from a real crime committed in NY. The contrast between the letters and Mattie's story is just perfect. I loved having this backdrop for Mattie's fictional story to unfold against. They played off each other beautifully.
My one tiny complaint is that I loved the book so much, I had high hopes for a last line that would knock me back in my chair. The last lines were very strong, but they were a tiny bit cliched. My socks weren't knocked off. But, like I said, it was definitely a strong ending.
I guess you've got the point by now, but I highly, highly recommend this book. Don't be put off by the fact that it's labeled as a young adult book. These authors have a lot to say that people of all ages can relate to. Put aside any pre-conceived notions you might have of young adult novels and give this a try. I really don't think you'll regret it.
My favorite quotes: "Right now I want a word that describes the feeling you get--a cold, sick feeling deep down inside--when you know something is happening that will change you, and you don't want it to, but you can't stop it. And you know, for the first time, for the very first time, that there will now be a before and an after, a was, and a will be. And that you will never again be quite the same person you were."
"A new word. Bright with possibilities. A flawless pearl to turn over and over in my hand, then put away for safekeeping."
"What I saw next stopped me dead in my tracks. Books. Not just one or two dozen, but hundreds of them. In crates. In piles on the floor. In bookcases that stretched from floor to ceiling and lined the entire room. I turned around and around in a slow circle, feeling as if I'd just stumbled into Ali Baba's cave. I was breathless, close to tears, and positively dizzy with greed."
"There were lives in those books, and deaths. Families and friends and lovers and enemies. Joy and despair, jealousy, envy, madness, and rage. All there... I could almost hear the characters inside, murmuring and jostling, impatient for me to open the cover and let them out."
"I know it is a bad thing to break a promise, but I think now that it is a worse thing to let a promise break you."...more
Writer and bibliophile Helene Hanff strikes up a friendship through correspondence with the staff of a used bookshop in London.
I think my expectationWriter and bibliophile Helene Hanff strikes up a friendship through correspondence with the staff of a used bookshop in London.
I think my expectations were too high. I remember other readers telling me, "Oh, if you liked The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, you will absolutely love 84, Charing Cross Road." Well, I absolutely loved Guernsey, so there wasn't really any room for me to like something more. Disappointment was inevitable.
Letters were obviously left out, and I found myself wondering what was going on in between the published letters. There would be a reference to "your last letter" and I wondered what had been said in it.
I was a little taken aback by how quickly the author took such a familiar tone with the reserved "Brits." I can't imagine writing "WHAT KIND OF A BLACK PROTESTANT BIBLE IS THIS?" in my second letter to a business. Not if I was truly upset, and definitely not in a teasing manner.
I thought it got repetitive. "Do you have this book? Why not? What's that in dollars? Glad you liked the food I sent. Maybe I'll get over there someday." That's about it.
I don't think I've read, or even heard of, most of the books that the author wants to buy. I appreciate that she's a voracious reader, but we apparently have 0 books in common. It was hard to stir up much interest in that.
I did like that books united such far-flung people. I'm sitting here thinking about a quote by Emerson that says something like "I can't be truly alone when I'm surrounded by books." He was using that as an argument to get out in nature, but that can be a comforting thought as well. Not only am I as a reader sharing a connection with an author, but I've got a connection, whether we're aware of it or not, to all the other readers who've picked up a particular work. It's a connection that transcends time and space. These books connected this group of people in a much more immediate way, and their lives were obviously enriched by the connection.
I've been a little harsher than I meant to be on this slim little volume. I did mostly enjoy myself. Just don't set your expectations too high going into it....more
Daniel Sempere's father takes him to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books when he's ten years old. One of the cemetery rules is that on your first visit, yDaniel Sempere's father takes him to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books when he's ten years old. One of the cemetery rules is that on your first visit, you choose a book, take it with you, and protect it forever. Daniel chooses The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Daniel falls in love with this exquisitely written book and is puzzled when he find out that very few copies of the book ever sold and that his copy is one of the few still in existence. He sets out to find out more about the author of the book that he loves so much, never dreaming of the secrets he will uncover over the next ten years.
I don't think I've ever read many, if any, books by Spanish authors. So I'm reading along, starting to fall under this book's spell, and I all of a sudden started thinking about the movie "Pan's Labyrinth." Then I started worrying that maybe that brutal kind of sucker punch that happened at the end of the movie was a trademark of Spanish writers in general. And I think that affected the way I read the rest of the book. I think that if I ever go back and re-read it, I will enjoy it more. But this time around, I was afraid to let myself get too attached to anyone. Weird, I know. I wish that hadn't happened.
All in all, this was a really good book. It had that melodramatic feel that I've loved in Jane Eyre and The Thirteenth Tale. There were several twists and turns that grabbed me and almost shouted, "This isn't going where you think it is! Pay attention!" When I could let go of my weird "Pan's Labyrinth" thing, I caught myself wandering through the house, holding the book so I could read it in one hand, and haphazardly doing chores with the other. I used to do that all the time when I was little, but it doesn't happen all that often now.
I didn't feel all that much for most of the characters, but I loved--possibly a tiny SPOILER here--broken, brilliant, valiant Fermín. He tried so hard to overcome what he saw as his weaknesses. He was loyal, he was funny, he was chivalrous. He and Daniel had this whole "Scent of a Woman" thing going on that I loved. Fermin: "The female heart is a labyrinth of subtleties, too challenging for the uncouth mind of the male racketeer. If you really want to possess a woman, you must think like her, and the first thing to do is to win over her soul. The rest, that sweet, soft wrapping that steals away your senses and your virtue, is a bonus." What woman could resist a man like that? Not this one!
The book was pretty dark overall, but there were a few scenes where small kindnesses made all the difference to someone that just broke my heart. Whether it was the wise-cracking beggar breaking down in tears after being given a bath, or the shy boy who asks Daniel to be his friend. Just looking back through those scenes makes my heart ache for the people who just need something so small.
The translator did a great job. A few phrases here and there rang a little false when I read them, but mostly I would never have guessed it was a translation.
I found several quotes that I liked:
"Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart."
"The moment you stop to think about whether you love someone, you've already stopped loving that person forever."
"What destiny does not do is home visits. You have to go for it."
"Making money isn't hard in itself... What's hard is to earn it doing something worth devoting one's life to."
Someone "says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day."
I did enjoy this, and I think that readers who like that whole Gothic melodrama style will enjoy it also....more