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

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreIn my online book club, The Nest Book Club, we like to do random things to get people to read books together.  We have monthly books, seasonal challenges, annual challenges, and buddy reads.  My buddy for the month of April and I chose to read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.  Here’s the Goodreads summary:

“The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.

With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that’s rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.”

This was a really good book. I feel like I didn’t know what to expect by reading the back of it, but I really enjoyed it.

I really liked the main character. So much of what I have read recently was from a woman’s point of view. It was nice to read something from a guy’s perspective. Clay, as a main character, was witty and an easy person to like. I had no problem understanding his viewpoint or his habits and ways of thinking. I really liked him.

As for Mr. Penumbra…he was such an interesting character. His bookstore is so cool and I’d LOVE to see it in real life!! I have a great visual of it.

The other supporting characters definitely helped make the story. I don’t think there was one character that was pointless or meaningless. I liked them all and their purpose.

The story, in general, was interesting and I found it to be quite a fast read (despite how long it took me to read it!). I also loved how Clay’s favorite book/series was tied into the book as well. It was very clever.

Overall this was a great book! I’m so glad I read it!
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169 – Requiem (Delirium #3) by Lauren Oliver

RequiemI’ve been waiting for this book to come out since reading the first and second installments when they came out in the past couple years.  I didn’t post a review of Delirium, the first book, but you can read my review of Pandemonium, the second in the series, here.  As for this book, the third and final in the trilogy, here’s the Goodreads summary.

“They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past.

But we are still here.

And there are more of us every day.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor.

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.

Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it.

But we have chosen a different road.

And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose.

We are even free to choose the wrong thing.

Requiem is told from both Lena’s and Hana’s points of view. The two girls live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.”

** spoiler alert **  SOME OF WHAT IS WRITTEN COULD BE SLIGHT SPOILERS.  BE WARNED.

I can’t decide what to rate this book. I think the ending made it worth the 4 stars…but I was definitely at a 3.5 for most of the book.

I don’t know what it was about this book but I found myself disinterested in Lena’s story. I felt there was so much random and unnecessary talk of travel. I know the author was trying to use the travel to show the passage of time, but I found it annoying.

I really enjoyed Hana’s parts of the story. I’m glad we got to see what happened to her and where her story went. I like that she sort-of came back to herself the more the story continued.

It’s weird…..I only kind of liked Alex in the first book. Then in the second book, I LOVED Julian! I thought he was such a great fit for Lena. Then, in this installment, I felt like I saw the real Alex. Lena wasn’t this naive young girl that took everything at face value.

It was nice to see Lena’s growth and change. I loved that she and Hana were able to see each other one more time.

Overall, I’m still mixed on this book. I liked the trilogy, but I think this might be my least favorite of the bunch.
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167 – Cowards by Glenn Beck

CowardsI’ve wanted to read a book by Glenn Beck for a while.  As a part of the 2013 Genre Challenge I’m working through, I figured I’d give one of his books a try for my Political read.  Here’s the Goodreads summary.

“COURAGE COWARDS
As we approach the most important presidential election in America’s history, something has been lost among all of the debates, attack ads, and super- PACs—something that Americans used to hold in very high regard: THE TRUTH.

Glenn Beck likes to say that “the truth has no agenda”—but there’s another side to that: people who have agendas rarely care about the truth. And, these days, it seems like everyone has an agenda. The media leads with stories that rate over those that matter. Politicians put lobbyists and electability over honesty. Radicals alter history in order to change the future.

In Cowards, Glenn Beck exposes the truth about thirteen important issues that have been hijacked by deceit. Whether out of spite, greed, or fear, these are the things that no one seems to be willing to have an honest conversation about. For example:

* How our two-party POLITICAL SYSTEM often leaves voters with NO GOOD OPTIONS.

* How extremists are slowly integrating ISLAMIC LAW into our SOCIETY.

* How PROGRESSIVE “religious” leaders like JIM WALLIS are politicizing the Bible.

* How the CARTEL VIOLENCE on our border is FAR WORSE than people realize.

* How “LIBERTARIAN” has been INTENTIONALLY turned into a DIRTY WORD.

* How GEORGE SOROS has amassed enough MONEY and POWER to INFLUENCE entire ECONOMIES.

In some cases, the truth is out there, but people simply don’t want to hear it. It’s much easier, and certainly a lot more convenient, to keep our blinders on. After all, as a quote attributed to President James Garfield made clear, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”

Miserable or not, the truth can no longer be something we hope for; it must be something we live. When courage prevails, cowards do not—and this book was written to ensure that’s exactly what happens.”

It took me a while to get through this book. Not because I didn’t like it, but because it always takes me a while to get through non-fiction. Add to the fact that this book deals with some heavy issues, and it’s no wonder it took me a month to read it.

I really enjoyed this read. I like Glenn Beck. I like his writing style. I like him as a person.

I also think that the more I read this book, the more I realized I’m closer to a Libertarian than I thought.

I can also say I learned a lot. I feel like I had no idea what the drug cartels were actually like until reading this book. You hear the stories on the radio about a random person here and there being killed, but this chapter really exploded the reality of these cartels. The magnitude of their influence is mind-boggling. It’s not even close to “just another gang.”

As a frequent listener of my local Fox News talk radio station, I know a lot about what is going on in the world, but because I haven’t always listened, there are things I didn’t know. Within Beck’s chapter on “The Islamist Agenda”, I learned a lot of background that I hadn’t previously know. I was finally able to connect names and places I’ve heard about to real-life things. This was very helpful to me.

I also really enjoyed reading Beck’s chapter on Education in America. I LOVED his idea of shutting the entire system down, truly identifying the problem, then starting over. I liked how he described it as if our educational system is like a flu outbreak. Instead of keeping the schools open to harbor the flu more, shut it down and sanitize/clean it all out. He’s absolutely right in saying how screwed up our educational system is. Reading this chapter just brought back memories from junior and senior high school and about how much I didn’t learn. I’d like to think the public school district I attended didn’t have another agenda, but I can honestly say I don’t remember much of what I learned, especially about American history.

All in all, I’m very glad I chose this book as my “Political” book for my book club’s Genre Challenge. I’ve wanted to read one of Beck’s books for a while and I’m happy to have delved in. I think this was a great book to start with and hope to read more of his work in the future.
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166 – Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful CreaturesThis was the March read for my In-Real-Life (IRL) book club.  We chose it based on the fact that the movie just came out recently and we’d all had it on our to-read lists.  Here’s the Goodreads summary.

“Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.”

I really enjoyed this book. It was a great pick by my book club and I’m hoping to get to see the movie once it comes out on DVD.

I really liked the two main characters, Lena and Ethan. Their chemistry and relationship in general brought an interesting dynamic to the story. Not to mention the way they could communicate with one another.

I liked Macon, Link, Amma, and Marian as well. They were great secondary characters and brought a lot to the story.

The overall story itself was interesting. I thought the Caster world was intriguing and I liked that their powers were so different and, especially Lena’s, changeable.

The Southern piece of this story was interesting to read about. It was fascinating to read about the tight-knit community that really didn’t like outsiders. I also loved reading about the Southern history.

Overall, I really liked this story. I liked what happened and, honestly, the ending was different than I expected it to be…which I also liked. I plan to read the next in the series, but I will wait a while to read it.

Good book.
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163 – A Shot of Sultry (Sultry Springs #2) by Macy Beckett

A Shot of SultryThis post and review is going to be completely biased because the author is in my online book club.  Here’s my post/review of the first book in the series, Sultry With a Twist.  OK…here’s the Goodreads summary.

“Welcome to Sultry Springs, Texas: where home can be the perfect place for a fresh start.

For West Coast filmmaker Bobbi Gallagher, going back to Sultry Springs is a last resort. But with her career in tatters, a quick trip to her hometown might get her the footage she needs to salvage her reputation. She just can’t let anything distract her again. Not even the gorgeous contractor her brother asked to watch over her. As if she can’t handle filming a few rowdy Texans.

Golden boy Trey Lewis, with his blond hair and Technicolor-blue eyes, is a leading man if Bobbi ever saw one. He’s strong and confident and–much to her delight–usually shirtless. He thinks keeping his best friend’s baby sister out of trouble will be easy. But he has no idea of the trouble in store for him…”

This book is seriously sweet!  I know I’m biased, but I love it!

I loved getting to read Trey and Bobbi’s love story. Seeing how they got together as well as how they fought it was so sweet. I also loved getting to see Luke and June (from book #1)! And how Luke is such a protective brother and June is such a loving and caring sister-in-law.

And of course, the steaminess of this book was way up there! ::::fans self:::: Seriously HOT!

Loved this book and can’t wait until the next one!
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161 – Portrait in Death (In Death #16) by J.D. Robb

Portrait in DeathJust another installment of the In Death series.  Here’s the Goodreads summary.

“After a tip from a reporter, Eve Dallas finds the body of a young woman in a Delancey street dumpster. Just hours before, the news station had mysteriously received a portfolio of professional portraits of the woman. The photos seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary for any pretty young woman starting a modeling career. Except that she wasn’t a model. And that these photos were taken after she had been murdered. Now Dallas is on the trail of a killer who’s a perfectionist and an artist. He carefully observes and records his victim’s every move. And he has a mission: to own every beautiful young woman’s innocence, to capture her youth and vitality—in one fateful shot…”

LOVED this one! It was so great to finally learn more about Roarke’s history! I loved getting to see that side of him. Also, it was so great getting to see Eve and Summerset bond over harassing others!

And honestly, it was nice to not have Eve be the one almost dying in the end.

On to the next one!
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160 – Update

I’m officially 2 months and 19 days away from hitting my 30th birthday.  I’ve taken a bit of a break from my list.  Well…sort of.  I went crazy with my goal list last year and I started to feel like I was getting obsessed.  So, I have it mapped out how I’ll hit a few more in the last 2 1/2 months.  Here we go.

1. Write a short story or novella. – Yeah, I’m still not sure if this will actually happen.  Maybe I’ll get lucky when Don’s traveling in April and get some inspiration.  We’ll see.
4. Have our first baby! (….) – :::sigh:::  I have no control over this one.  Infertility sucks big, hairy, smelly, sweaty balls.  After 17 months…still nothing…and still no real reason why.
5. Send a card a month to someone for no reason.  Family or Friend. (19/21) – I’ve got this.  No problem.
12. Clean out and organize the basement. – We’re actually in the process of finishing our basement.  It’s slow going.  I’m not sure if I’ll hit this goal by my birthday.  But it’ll definitely be done by the end of the summer.
14. Plant a garden.  Flower, Herb, or Vegetable. – This one is going to depend on when we can get a landscaper out to our house to put some fill into our yard.  If they can come early, I’ll get my flower garden in.  If not, then maybe I’ll have to stick to just planting some herbs in some pots and go planting crazy next year.
18. Have at least one real date night a month. (20/21) – One more to go!
21. Make homemade bread for the first time. – There’s no reason why I can’t have done this already.  I’ve had the recipe for months and month.
22. Pick a weekend and completely spoil Don. – I think this might end up happening on his birthday weekend.
23. Make a fruit pie from scratch.  No short cuts. – Doing this for my dad’s birthday at the end of this month!
26. Have a picnic with Don. – This is so easy and we just haven’t done it!  Though, unless we get some warmer weather in May, we might have to have a living room picnic.
27. Get a professional type camera and use it.  Or learn how to better use my current camera and use it. – Already started this one.  It’s slow going on my current camera.
29. Finish 15 of my Presidential Challenge biographies. (1/15) – I won’t hit this goal.  FAIL.
31. Make a 30-day photo diary.  (Will happen 4/20/13 – 5/20/2013)
32. Finish an entire book of crossword puzzles.  (Bought…and begun!) – I’m about 25% done with my book!
33. Learn 30 new words. (1/30) – I won’t hit this goal.  FAIL.

So…there you go.

I’m also doing alright with my book club’s genre challenge.  Not that you could tell by looking at my list.  But I’m feeling OK with it.  I’ve got plenty of time to get those books finished.  I’ve liked everything so far!  Here’s to hoping I can hit all of the genres without really pushing through things too quickly.