Sunday, June 2, 2013

2013 YALSA Hub Reading Challenge - Update #16

Three more books checked off the challenge list this week, although I am still not going fast enough to be able to read all 85 titles by the end of this month. At just under half of the list done, I do need to get my read on. It's only bragging rights, but still...

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

"Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in."

The economy sucks and Clay Jannon is laid off from his job as a web designer. When an odd little shop catches his eye, he wanders into Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, and is soon hired as the newest clerk. It doesn't take long for Clay to suspect that there is more to Mr. Penumbra and his store than meets the eye. The few customers check out books from the towering shelves in the back of the store, what Clay calls the "Wayback List," but never buy any of the newer books displayed in the front of the shop. 

Curious about what is really going on, Clay designs a program to map out the store and the movement of the customers. When this leads him to a perplexing discovery, he enlists the help of his friends to uncover a mystery that stretches far beyond the walls of the shop.

The characters are more like sketches of common fantasy archetypes than fully-realized people, but I still went along for the ride. I absolutely loved the ending, especially the final page. 

Lovers of books will appreciate the intersection between technology and good old-fashioned books.

"...the right book exactly, at exactly the right time."

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert

Helen Keller was trapped in a dark, silent world until Annie Sullivan came to be her teacher. Annie, partially blind herself, struggled to communicate with Helen and to let her know that everything has a name. Finally, they had a breakthrough and Helen began to learn at an amazing rate. 

I've always been fascinated with Helen Keller's story, but this book really didn't live up to my expectations. The jumps back and forth between Helen's present and Annie's past were distracting and made the story hard to follow.

Code Name Verity (audiobook) by Elizabeth Wein (narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell)

Maddie and Queenie, raised in very different social circles, become best friends during WWII. Maddie is a pilot and Queenie a spy.

When Queenie is captured by Nazis in France and broken by torture, she agrees to cooperate in return for a quick death. Her written confession makes up the first half of the book. Initially, the flow of her narrative is hard to follow because of the switches from present to past tense. Once you get used to it, though, it actually helps keep track of past versus present events.

The last part of the book is more reliably narrated by another character and sheds light on Queenie's story in some surprising ways.

The friendship between Maddie and Queenie is realistic and moving. They are both strong characters, each a hero in her own way.  The narrators do an amazing job of bringing Maddie and Queenie, as well as a cast of other characters, to life. While I'm glad I read the print version first, the audiobook is the version I'll revisit again and again.

Highly recommended historical fiction. 

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