Saturday, March 1, 2014


I've been a busy little reader lately and thought I'd share with you:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  Ugh. What a piece of crap.  I hate chick lit (like Bridges of Madison County, The Mermaid Chair and the like) and this book despite its male narrator, is chick lit.  My friend Spencer - who introduced me to Joe Abercrombie, for which I will be eternally grateful - disliked WfE too, saying that although this book tries to pass itself off as "literature" but is really just a step above a Nicholas Sparks novel.  The romantic/dramatic premise is stupid; I don't like animal abuse, even fictional; and the whole story just abruptly and implausibly ends, like the author was tired of writing and just decided to stop.  Ugh.

Dare Me by Megan Abbott.  This one is about high school cheerleaders, who are a scary breed anyway.  Add to them the teenage girl cruelty, body issues and angst, and sprinkle on some unexpected violence and death and they're terrifying.  Addy Hanlon is the first-person narrator, second in command on the cheer squad to Beth, who runs the squad her own way until a new, young coach shows up.  Coach whips the cheerleaders' bodies into shape, honing their skills and advancing their technique until they are unstoppable.  For this they worship her - except for Beth, who resents the newcomer.  Addy in particular is drawn to Coach, developing a friendship with her outside of cheering, which Beth also resents.  Then there's a suicide and the police begin to look closely at Coach and her cheerleaders, and Addy doesn't know who or what to believe.  Dare Me is a good book, a page-turner, and will do nothing to convince its readers that high school girls are not monsters.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  The third book in my recent reading foray is my favorite, an unusual quest story in which the stakes are not life-or-death (again, thanks, Spencer) but are the solving of an ancient literary puzzle.  Clay Jannon (another first-person narrator) needs a job and finds one as the overnight clerk at the titular bookstore.  It is evident from the moment he steps into the store that this place is weird, with its high shelves filled with obscure volumes - and the oddball characters who come in at regular intervals to borrow these books, not buy them.  Clay is intrigued and he and his friends - a movie practical effects specialist, a Google phenom and a multimillionaire software guru whose bread and butter is anatomical rendering - use new technology to figure out the puzzle hidden in the Old Knowledge [books].  I loved Penumbra.  It's funny, clever and intelligent, with interesting characters, a solid story and a rich mythology - loads of fun.

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