December 13th, 2013

der Mut
  • maribou

Chaude Shadowfell; Freddie Attachments; Tricked Nurk

Shadowfell, by Juliet Marillier
There were some really great scenes in this but it wasn't my favorite of hers. A bit too by-the-numbers? But inferior Juliet Marillier is still better than superior most other people.

The Freddie Stories, by Lynda Barry
Weird and strange and good, like all her comics.

Le bleu est une couleur chaude, by Julie Maroh
Delicate, sad, intensely felt, beautifully drawn.

Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell
This shouldn't have worked, but it totally did. Very fun.

Tricked, by Alex Robinson
Different than I was expecting, and delicious. I really hope I can find my copy of Box Office Poison once the holiday starts.

Nurk, by Ursula Vernon
Really cute kid's story about a shrew who dreams of emulating his adventuress grandmother... and does.
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Book #66: Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott

Number of pages: 501

When I read Ivanhoe with its appearances by Robin Hood, I got the impression that Sir Walter Scott liked to introduce historic figures into his novels; this belief was reinforced by read this book.

The version I read was in the original text, which starts with a lengthy essay regarding Scotland several hundreds of years ago and the wars between individual clans; mostly this was a biography of the eponymous Rob Roy McGregor Campbell, known as the Scottish Robin Hood as he was a notorious outlaw. This was useful for giving some of the book's context in terms of the historical era in which it is set.

The story itself starts with the hero, Francis, being sent away after refusing to join the family business. This leads to him meeting a woman called Diane Vernon, but getting framed for treason; when this fails, the book's villain Rashleigh sets out to ruin Francis' family.

This novel was a bit different than I expected, as a lot of the first half of the book focusses on Francis' relationship with Diane, and Rob Roy does not appear until about half way when he assists Francis in getting revenge on Rashleigh, turning it into a classic swashbuckler. I found this to be quite a difficult book to read, mostly because it was quite wordy and long-winded, written in the form of a memoir from Francis. A lot of the time I had trouble with understanding the colloquialisms used (I have no idea what a "muckle" is), and I felt that I had to pay attention to everything that was happening in case I missed something. I did, however, like the vivid way in which the time period and Francis' travels through Scotland were portrayed.

While the plotlines involving Rob Roy were difficult to follow, I found myself enjoying the romantic plotline between Francis and Diane more. Starting with his jealousy of her other suitors, the book presents this as a romance that seems doomed to end in disaster, and it felt like they would never find happiness with each other.

Overall, I was satisfied with the book when I got to the end; the climax was epic, and there were some memorable moments. This is worth reading, but you need to be patient.

Next book: Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton
book fail, black books

Books 221-222: Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore and Ajax Penumbra 1969

Book 221: Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore.
Author: Robin Sloan, 2013.
Genre: Comedy-Drama. Quirky Tale. Conspiracy Fiction. Computers.
Other Details: Trade Paperback. 291 pages.

Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a Web-design drone and serendipity coupled with sheer curiosity has landed him a new job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. And it doesn't take long for Clay to realize that the quiet, dusty book emporium is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few fanatically committed customers, but they never seem to actually buy anything, instead they simply borrow impossibly obscure volumes perched on dangerously high shelves, all according to some elaborate arrangement with the eccentric proprietor. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he has plugged in his laptop, roped in his friends (and a cute girl who works for Google) and embarked on a high-tech analysis of the customers' behaviour. What they discover is an ancient secret that can only be solved by modern means, and a global-conspiracy guarded by Mr. Penumbra himself... who has mysteriously disappeared. synopsis from UK publisher's website.

I found this a charming, quirky tale that proved a delight from start-to-finish. It is the kind of novel that is hard to classify though it certainly explores the boundaries between traditional print media and the digital age and draws a comparison between the inventions of the printing press and the internet and their subsequent impacts upon society.

This was a reading group selection and received an enthusiastic 'thumbs up' from all but one member, who was undecided. Many of us felt that it compared very favourable to the wonderful Ready Player One in terms of its geek appeal. We also did wonder jokingly whether Goggle had sponsored the novel given the role of the company in the story.

Book 222: Ajax Penumbra 1969.
Author: Robin Sloan, 2013.
Genre: Period Fiction. Comedy-Drama. Quirky Tale. Conspiracy Fiction. Computers.
Other Details: ebook. 68 pages.

San Francisco, 1969. The summer of drugs, music and a new age dawning. A young, earnest Ajax Penumbra has been given his first assignment as a Junior Acquisitions Officer - to find the single surviving copy of the 'Techne Tycheon', a mysterious volume that has brought and lost great fortune for anyone who has owned it. After a few weeks of rigorous hunting, Penumbra feels no closer to his goal than when he started. But late one night, after another day of dispiriting dead ends, he stumbles upon a 24-hour bookstore and the possibilities before him expand exponentially. With the help of his friend's homemade computer, an ancient map, a sunken ship and the vast shelves of the 24-hour bookstore, Ajax Penumbra might just find what he's seeking... - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

This short prequel to Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore was a further delight and providing background on Mr. Penumbra and supporting characters. Although set in 1969, it is better read after Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore to place it in context.

Robin Sloan's web page - contains link to the original short story.
  • maribou

Cheese Shines Without Wizard's Wolf Men

Whale Shines, by Fiona Robinson
Really lovely kid's book. Preachy but in a quirky, self-aware, non-condescending way. And there is at least one sneaky pun.

Cheese Belongs to You, by Alexis Deacon, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz
Kid's book about rats stealing cheese from each other. Probably not intended as a gloss on Das Capital, but I couldn't help reading it that way.

Without Knowing Mr. Walkley, by Edith Olivier
A memoir from the 30s, written by a British novelist who was both quite old and quite well-known back then. A very few times, it was appallingly, casually racist. Mostly it was lovely. Here is a good bit: "I have often thought that in wakeful nights one is quite another person to one's ordinary everyday self. One ceases to be human and becomes a tangle of the super-human and the sub-human. One is very creative and completely uncritical; an animal, but an animal of peculiar sensitiveness to spiritual suggestion." If you like that, you'll like the book. If you don't, you won't.

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf, by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean
This is a weird odd little fable, in the best way. I like David Almond a whole lot.

A Wizard's Holiday, by Diane Duane, read by Christina Moore
One of my favorites in the series. I like it when she tackles Really Big Questions head-on, even if I don't always agree with her.

Of Muppets and Men, by Christopher Finch
This was so neat! It was written when the Muppet Show was still being produced, but it is lavishly illustrated. The whole book is just full of fascinating details and day-in-the-life stuff. Tasty. I liked it so much that I ordered a whole bunch more muppet books, and kept enthusing until my husband bought me my own whatnot muppet. (I did not even know you could buy them!) It's amazing how thoroughly my life has been shaped by the Jim Henson Company.
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