5/29/14

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Author: Robin Sloan 
Pages: 291
Publisher: Atlantic Books 
Format: Paperback 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)
: Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco 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.

But after just a few days, 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 they simply borrow 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' behaviour 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....



My Summary: The recession was hard on everyone, including twenty-something web designer Clay Jannon. After a few months of unemployment, he finds himself accepting a job at a used bookstore in the shadier part of town. But Penumbra's bookstore is not the kind of place you can find shiny new releases and franchise coffee companies, and Clay soon realizes that there is something very strange going on between the shelves of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. 

Together with his friends and his computer, Clay sets out to solve the mystery of the 24-Hour Bookstore. But what he discovers sets off a chain of events that may endanger the life of his employer and mean the end of the store as he knows it. 

My Thoughts
: First off, look at that gorgeous cover! I fell in love with it while trying to decide what format to buy the book in, and I'm so glad I chose this edition. It's a very petite book, but altogether very pretty.
This book was SO good. I found myself wanting to speed through it because it was so well-written and engaging, but I forced myself to slow down and savour it. Sloan's writing flows beautifully, and his characters (especially our MC, Clay) are extremely likable.

I loved the premise of the mystery surrounding the bookstore, and I think fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events will really enjoy this novel. The writing pulls you in from the very first page, and there was never a moment where I felt like the pacing was off or that the story was dragging. Clay's narrative is smooth and easy to read, and my only problem with this book is this: I wish it were longer.

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys mystery and suspense novels, as well as older fans of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events like myself. 

5/23/14

Signed, Skye Harper

Author: Carol Lynch Williams 
Pages: 304 
Publisher: Paula Wiseman Books 
Format: Paperback (ARC) 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Life is just fine for fourteen-year-old Winston. She loves her dog, Thelma, and although she never knew her dad, and her mom left ten years ago in search of Hollywood fame, Winston has family with Nanny, who is in her forties, and that doesn't even make her old. But a "just fine" life gets a lot more exciting when a letter arrives from Skye Harper, aka Judith Fletcher, aka Winston’s mother. She needs help, and Nanny says the best way to give it is to take a cross-country road trip—in a "borrowed" motor home—to go find Mama once and for all. Winston’s not so sure about this plan, but with a cute stowaway named Steve along for company and an adventure on the horizon, this is sure to be a summer to remember.



Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. 

My Summary: Set in the 1970's, Signed, Skye Harper follows fourteen-year-old Winston Fletcher as she discovers that the mother who left her ten years ago to become an actress is alive and in need of help. Together with her grandmother Nanny and Steve - the son of the owner of the RV - they set out for Las Vegas to find Winston's mother and bring her home.
  
My Thoughts: Although this novel was set in the 1970's, it felt as if I was reading a modern coming-of-age story. Winston was an extremely relatable character, and the situations addressed by the author have a timeless quality about them; first loves and forgiveness as well as second chances and absentee parents combine to make this a novel that could be set in any time period and still .resonate with readers. 

I really liked the cover, and I feel that it fits well with the story. The colours and model's expression in the picture reflect the overall atmosphere of the novel as well as Winston's uncertainty about the trip, her mother, and growing up. 

I also really enjoyed the humour, and the little moments here and there that made you stop and think. I'll definitely be on the lookout for more by Carol Lynch Williams!

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to younger fans of contemporary literature as well as fans of romance and family-oriented novels.

5/21/14

The Summer of Letting Go

Author: Gae Polisner
Pages: 316
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Format: Paperback (ARC)
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Summer has begun, the beach beckons and Francesca Schnell is going nowhere. Four years ago, Francesca's little brother, Simon, drowned, and Francesca is the one who should have been watching. Now Francesca is about to turn sixteen, but guilt keeps her stuck in the past. Meanwhile, her best friend, Lisette, is moving on most recently with the boy Francesca wants but can't have. At loose ends, Francesca trails her father, who may be having an affair, to the local country club. There she meets four-year-old Frankie Sky, a little boy who bears an almost eerie resemblance to Simon, and Francesca begins to wonder if it's possible Frankie could be his reincarnation. 

Knowing Frankie leads Francesca to places she thought she'd never dare to go and it begins to seem possible to forgive herself, grow up, and even fall in love, whether or not she solves the riddle of Frankie Sky.



Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Francesca knows it's only a matter of time before things fall apart. 

Her parents' marriage has been rocky since the death of her younger brother Simon, but it seem as if things have reached the tipping point. With her mother throwing herself into work for her brother's charity, her father appears to be finding solace in the beautiful woman next door. 

And as if that wasn't enough, Frankie can't seem to stop thinking about her best friend's boyfriend ... and it seems as if he may return her feelings - something neither of them knows how to deal with. Add to that the striking similarity between her deceased brother and the little boy she's been hired to take care of .... Could the little boy be the reincarnation of her brother, or is Frankie's guilt getting the best of her? 

My Thoughts: This book was incredibly hard to put down. Frankie was such a relatable character, and your heart breaks for her as she attempts to deal with everything on her plate. Growing up with such a huge burden - her guilt over allowing her brother to drown - has left Frankie with nothing but self-depreciating thoughts and the mindset that she deserves whatever bad things happen to her. 

The mystery of whether or not Francesca's father was having an affair was intriguing. I also really enjoyed reading about Frankie Sky - you could really see how much spending time with him allowed Francesca to heal and move past her brother's death. 

The romance element was a great addition, although I'm glad it wasn't the main focus of the novel. Instead, it tied in perfectly with everything else that was going on in Frankie's life - showing, I think, that romance isn't the only thing we have to deal with as we get older. Frankie's family issues took precedence over her feelings for Lisette's boyfriend, and I'm glad. I found myself tearing up while reading at some points - especially those involving Simon's death and Frankie's guilt. Gae Polisner definitely knows how to rip your heart out with words.   

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to fans of contemporary literature as well as those who enjoy YA and romance. It would also be a great read for those looking for a darker coming-of-age novel. I'll be checking out more from the author as soon as possible!

5/11/14

Spring Romance

Hey everyone! Just popping by to let you know that the lovely people over at Simon & Schuster are having a contest and giving away some great spring romance novels as well as some amazing book swag (including a $100 Garage gift card and a limited edition Jenny Han t-shirt)! 


Click on the banner above to be redirected to the S&S website for more details and to enter. Good luck everyone!

5/10/14

The Geography of You and Me

Author: Jennifer E. Smith 
Pages: 352 
Publisher: Headline 
Format: Paperback 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Owen lives in the basement. Lucy lives on the 24th floor. But when the power goes out in the midst of a New York heatwave, they find themselves together for the first time: stuck in a lift between the 10th and 11th floors. As they await help, they start talking... 

The brief time they spend together leaves a mark. And as their lives take them to Edinburgh and San Francisco, to Prague and to Portland they can't shake the memory of the time they shared. Postcards cross the globe when they themselves can't, as Owen and Lucy experience the joy - and pain - of first love. 


And as they make their separate journeys in search of home, they discover that sometimes it is a person rather than a place that anchors you most in the world.



My Summary: Lucy is the youngest of three children in a family that spends more time apart than together. Her wealthy parents are constantly jetting off to new and exotic places, leaving Lucy alone in New York. She wants nothing more than to travel alongside them, but her parents seem to prefer to love their children from a distance.

Owen and his father have always been close, but ever since his mother passed away, Owen is afraid to leave his dad alone for more than a few hours at a time. Their move to New York has been hard on them both, but Owen hopes his dad can find some solace in a new town - even if Owen himself hates it.

The two meet on a night that doesn't quite seem real, and even though time pulls them apart, their brief encounter links them together in ways they could never imagine.

My Thoughts: This book was incredibly fun to read. I got so attached to the characters that I was cheering by the end. The writing was flawless, and the story flowed perfectly. Lucy and Owen were incredibly realistic, and their reactions to the situations they found themselves in showed off both the similarities and the differences in their characters. I really enjoyed the switching point of views - they helped you understand both characters better as well as their thought processes.  

If you've ever longed to travel, this is the book for you. And if you've never wanted to send a postcard, I guarantee this book will change your mind - you'll definitely find yourself reaching for a few the next time you're on vacation.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel - and any other novel by Jennifer E. Smith, really - to fans of Anna & the French Kiss as well as those looking for a sweet romance to kick-start their summer reading.