Monday, April 23, 2018

Books, Books, Books

Winter is easing its grip and I am finding a day here and there to sit outside and read.  Which means it's also time for yard word and that is nothing to write about.  However I recently finished a book about a bookstore which made me think of others, so here goes.  Books about bookstores.

Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan

I’ve loved the books I’ve read that were set in bookstores so I was eager to read this one after I read the description. The beginning was confusing but once the story moved to Paris and into the bookstore, it turned a corner for me and I was engaged by the charismatic George, the adorable Peter and Annabelle, crotchety Madame, and the enigmatic Declan as well as the sense of place Callanan’s descriptions of Paris provided.

The single fly in the ointment for me was Robert. I was perplexed by the relationship between he and Leah. I just didn’t get any spark or romance between them and I didn’t understand Leah’s support and tolerance of Robert’s “write-aways” where he would leave for indeterminate periods of time. Robert’s absences were hard on both Daphne and Ellie and led Ellie to ask, “He didn’t hate us, did he?” We learn that this dysfunction went on for 18 years. It felt like Leah put her selfish husband ahead of the welfare of her girls. Without strong and clear leadership from their parents, the girls became very mature and my favorite characters. I was thoroughly sick of him before the family left for Paris.

This was a coming of age for Leah as well as for her girls and i was glad she didn’t give up. Without giving anything away, the end was worth the journey.

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafon

This has been around for a while but it's still good.  Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

The Storied Life of A J Fikrey by Gabrielle Zevin

My bookclub chose this book and we lean toward literary works, so this felt like a spoof on our tastes, with so many of the book clubs and book discussions developing throughout. The anatomy of a book club, its expectations, a reader's response to a book, and the books they chose will be fun for our book club to talk about. It started feeling predictable, like a happy-ever-after story, but given the press this book received, I knew more was coming. Lambiase kept talking about a book with a twist and this certainly had one. A.J. had asked Maya, "Is a twist less satisfying if you know it's coming?" I'll find out how my book club answers that question tomorrow.  (I read this several years ago)

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

I enjoyed this book in spite of its thin plot and the interludes of predictable sexual tension. I loved the author's voice which made me set aside the things that didn't work like "apartments" in a rural and dying midwestern town and just keep reading on. I liked the motley cast of characters and I really did like Sara, her impressive knowledge of books and her inner dialogue as she ruminated about books and authors. I loved how she created shelves and the seeing which books she chose for them. I want to visit her bookshop! It was cold and snowy outside so I sat in my favorite chair and sank into this book. This book is a translation and I suspect the author has never been to the American Heartland, hence the apartments.

Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

I struggled a little in the beginning with the French names and setting, but once I cleared that I sailed into this book. My first thought was - physician, heal thyself! This poor damaged bookseller could put the perfect book in anyone's hands but his own, and then we learn his misery is the self-inflected, the produce of hurt and pride. He refused to use his first name as he drifted through those twilight years, and I noticed one of the first changes in his awakening was acknowledging his first name, Jean. I'm calling this a book fantasy, short of serious literature and much much more than a romance. Imagine a literary apothecary on a barge! With cats!! The one silly thing that niggled at my mind was - where were the cat boxes?? I loved this book.

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

A Winner of the Alex Award, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction, named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything―instead, they "check out" large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele's behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore's secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.

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