Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

by Robin Sloan

If I ever ran across a store named Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore I would pop right in! Good title and even a good idea, but not the best execution, although that may be my age.

Clay, a 20-something techie currently out of work takes the nightshift at this 24-hour bookstore in which his job is not to sell books, but rather to take notes on the clients and books they borrow from the store. Clay is forbidden from reading any of the books, which is a rule he breaks before his first night in the store. He discovers that these books are actually codes, and each patron to the shop is on a mission to be the first to solve the code. Naturally, Clay determines to get to the bottom of it all. He enlists his friends, who are quirky and tech-savvy and off they go, globe-trotting and book stealing to solve the puzzle.

Sounds fun, and it is an ok read, but I think a great opportunity missed. Again, that may be an age thing, or maybe someone much more interested in technology than me. And what's up with all the Google-love happening in this book?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson

I don't recall having ever seen a movie or read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde before, but somehow I knew the tale, but I think that is likely the case for most people, you know the story. And really, you do know it, whether or not you've taken the time to read it. While it is a quick read, it is exactly what I knew. Dr. Jekyll, wanting to create a perfectly evil being, invents a potion to separate himself into two personalities: good and evil. The wealthy Jekyll lives and works well within his community, but once transformed into Hyde, he seeks out innocent victims to torture and kill. Unfortunately, what happens is that the evil personality of Hyde grows continually stronger within, and Jekyll has more and more trouble returning to himself. His friends and neighbors are concerned, but are reluctant to confront him or take action. And those that try are quickly rebutted by Jekyll.

There are a lot of moral issues insinuated throughout this book, which would make it a good choice to read and discuss with teens. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Black Tower

by Louis Bayard

Before there was Sherlock Holmes, there was Eugene Francois Vidocq, but unlike Holmes, Vidocq was a real criminal-turned-cop and the original plainclothes detective. In The Black Tower, Bayard takes advantage of the Frenchman Vidocq by using him to solve another infamous French crime, the murder of the boy king Louis XVII. Many people have laid claim to being Louis-Charles, son of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI and all have been found frauds. Now there is a new claimant to that title whose assertions seem to be spurring some mysterious deaths. It is up to Vidocq and his reluctant sidekick Carpentier to find the murderer and to uncover the truth of the matter.

This is the second book I've read by Bayard and I'd say that while his characterization might not be the best, he's a solid author who does a good job of merging true history with fiction. I've got at least one more of his on my to-read shelf.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Confessions of a D-List Supervillain

by Jim Bernheimer

This book is so far out of my traditional reading material that I'm only providing a brief overview. First, it seems to be a comic book novel style and second, it is written in first-person present, which doesn't generally bode well but works in this book.

Calvin "Mechani-Cal" Stringel is a self-proclaimed mediocre supervillain. Actually, he doesn't seem to be a villain at all, but rather a mid-level superhero with sketchy boundaries. Some strange bugs have invaded his futuristic world that are attaching themselves to people and making them bug addicts. Because Cal is protected in his mechanical suit, he has remained unaffected by the bugs, making him responsible to rescue the "superheroes" and get them back to saving the world.

Confessions of a D-List Supervillain was a rather enjoyable step outside of my reading box and a book I'd recommend to YA guys, but not too YA given the graphic romance bit.