Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Author: Robin Sloan

Synopsis: Clay used to work as a website designer, but then the Great Recession hits and he’s stuck looking for a new job.  When he sees a hand-written “Help Wanted” sign in the window of a bookstore, he cares more about getting the job than about the oddness of the store.  But after working the night shift for just a few weeks, he realizes just how weird the store really is.

It’s not just that the store is taller than it is wide, although that is strange.

It’s not that it’s open 24-Hours a day, although that’s unusual too.

It’s not even that the owner is an eccentric, bright-eyed old man.

It’s more like the fact that the entire back of the bookstore is shelved with old-smelling tomes that are written in code.  And that bizarre people come in at all hours of the night, desperate to exchange one coded book for another.

Clay really wants to hang onto his job.  But more than that, he wants to know what’s going on.  But the further he digs into the mystery, the weirder things get.  Clay steps from his world of buzzing fast internet, human androids, and insane technology, out into the dark world of ancient societies and black robes.  To uncover the mystery of the coded books and their strange borrowers, he’ll need the help of his girlfriend (who works at Google), his best friend (who is a millionaire), and maybe even Mr Penumbra himself.

My Thoughts: I was enchanted by this book.

Setting:  I loved the way that old, dusty books collided with new, lightning-fast technology.  It was a really neat setting (about 50 years in the future, I think), and I loved the way the MC described things.

Style: The writing style was really fun & interesting – I loved the voice.  And I especially loved how the MC was such a nerd – there were references to Harry Potter and other books/movies, and the MC was slightly obsessed with this Fantasy story.  It was awesome how the Sci-Fi world was mixed with the Fantasy-loving characters.

Characters: Awesome.  Diverse.  Funny.  Real.

Plot: Super cool.  Ever-changing, always going somewhere new.  I loved the idea of these special books that were written in code, hiding secrets even deeper than the MC could imagine.  It worked for me.

Content Advisory: There is some romance in the book, but it is NOT central to the plot.  That said, the MC mentions that he and his girlfriend “make out”, and there are a few scenes where they are in her bedroom (and one where it’s mentioned she’s naked).  However, there is NOTHING explicit at all.  Really, if you skip about two sentences, the book could be rated G.

Rating: 4.7 stars.

If you like books, computers, sci-fi, fantasy, nerdy things, things that make you laugh, or just REALLY GOOD BOOKS, then go get it from the library.


mr ppenumbra-glow-in-the-dark

Since You’ve Been Gone

Since You've Been GoneAuthor: The delightful Morgan Matson

Synopsis: On the brink of summer, Emily’s best friend – the one who makes her life 100% interesting – disappears.  Sloane is gone without a trace, and Emily is left on her own shaky legs to try to fill her empty days.  But then The List arrives – thirteen things Emily would never normally do.  But she might be willing to try, because they might just lead her back to Sloane.

Apple picking at night?  Sure, not too hard.

Dance until dawn?  She can manage that.

But what about Steal something or Kiss a Stranger?  Emily will need the help of some new, unexpected friends to finish this daunting task.  In the process, she might not only find Sloane, but also find a new side to herself.

My Thoughts: I liked this book even more than I anticipated.

1) It is such a fun, light read.  Lots of laughter, lots of beautifulness.
2) The characters are amazing, and all so three-dimensional. They surprised me a lot, in a good way.
3) The pacing. Despite the fact that there’s not a ton of suspense, I still felt pulled to turn the page, to keep reading. Instead of driving me forward with tension, it seduced me forward with its charm.
4) The ending.  It was a lovely ball of infinite perfection.

Content Advisory: I mean, The List features things like Go Skinny Dipping and Kiss a Stranger, so expect a little bit of that kinda thing.  There are a few kisses, but nothing explicit.  Definitely more of a high-school age book, though.

Rating: 4.2 stars.  It was a tiny bit slow at the beginning.  Still delightful, though.  Like an ice cream cone where you eat through the cone part first and then are left with nothing but the delicious, creamy swirl of goodness.

How I heard about it: my summer book club!  We all enjoyed it sooooo much.


Maximum Ride


Author: the best-selling James Patterson

Synopsis: Fourteen-year-old Max (full name: Maximum Ride) has a lot on her plate.  She’s responsible for protecting five of her closest friends from blood-thirsty scientists who want to experiment on them.  One of those friends happens to be a cute, quiet, boy.  Then she’s also trying to track down her long-lost parents.  Oh, and she’s supposed to save the world in her free time.  But at least she can fly.

She and the rest of the “flock” have to fight off half-wolf, half-human mutants, rescue the youngest member of their winged-group from captivity, and find a place to eat tonight.  Because flying sure does have a way of making you hungry.

So come along and join the adventure, but be ready, ’cause you’ve gotta soar to survive.

What I love about it:   1) The plot.  I mean, how awesome is a bunch of bird-kids soaring around America trying to stop an evil science team?    2) The characters.  From adorable Angle to blind-but-sarcastic Iggy, the whole Flock is amazing.  And Max herself is awesome.  She has determination, a pair of wings, a bit of self-doubt, and an amazing wit that’s used for extreme sarcasm.

Content Advisory: nothing bad —  a bit of action violence and a smidgen of romance that’s completely clean.

Rating: 4.5 stars, if only because the first book wasn’t nearly as good as the second two.

Describe it in one sentence: An action-packed, sky-soaring adventure that leaves you breathless and wanting to read more.

Bonus: shout out to my older brother for introducing me to this series!

The Gallager Girl Series


Author: The beautiful, wonderful, soul-stealing Alley Carter

Synopsis: (of the first book – I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You)

Cammie Morgan may be fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways (three of which involve a piece of uncooked spaghetti), but the Gallagher Academy hasn’t prepared her for what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, and track him through a mall without him ever being the wiser, but can she have a regular relationship with a regular boy who can never know the truth about her? Cammie may be an elite spy in training, but in her sophomore year, she’s doing something riskier than ever—she’s falling in love.

My Thoughts: I love this series.  LOVE LOVE LOVE.  Ally Carter writes in a refreshing, deep POV prose that grabs you by the mini-skirt and pulls you along for a wild ride.  I love the characters — Cammie, the MC, is hysterical, intelligent, special… and yet easy to relate to.  And a spy.  (Which makes her pretty darn awesome.)  The other characters are diverse and funny and awesome – and also spies.  As the series progresses, Cammie faces new challenges – like being kidnapped, meeting boy spies, and finding out that the truth can hurt.  She has to rely on her training, her friends, and her instincts to make it out alive at the end of the day.

Anything objectionable?  Nope!  I mean, there’s action violence throughout the series, and there is certainly some romance, but there’s nothing objectionable for young audiences.


Describe it in one sentence: It’s a series that you can’t put down, with awesome characters and epic plot lines… and have I mentioned, SPIES?!

More info:

Bonus: I was introduced to this series through Ally’s amazing website for writers.  It was uber helpful!  Check it out here.  Lots of fun stuff and amazing info, especially for young / beginner writers.

EDIT: I got to meet the author, Ally Carter!  Read about it here.