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

penumbraBook – “What do you seek in these shelves?” What recently unemployed graphic designer Clay Jannon sought was employment. His quest was successful at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore; a place with bookshelves and ladders extending up three stories, and a collection of curious books that are never bought, but are “checked-out” by eccentric individuals. Clay calls upon his friends to assist him with investigating mysteries which extend far beyond the walls of the enigmatic store. This thought-provoking tale includes puzzles that revolve around technology as antiquated as the printing press and as cutting edge as Google wizardry. The humorous writing and optimistic tone make this novel a rejuvenating read. Appropriately, this book offers a surprise if the reader turns out the light. The audiobook does not offer that perk, but the narrator Ari Filakos delivers the likable Clay’s inner monologues and quirky humor so well that I went back and listened to some key sections to hear his moving delivery of them.

Dancing Dogs: Stories by Jon Katz

dancing dogsBook – Ok, so it was the adorable dog on the cover that made me give this book of short stories about human-animal relationships a look. Katz effectively pulls on animal-lover’s heartstrings with these tales portraying the impact four-legged creatures make upon their care-takers lives. Yet, the most thought-provoking stories are from the perspective of the animal. One story, which relates the day of a dog at home while his owner is away, reminds  me of what I have often been told when over-personifying my dog, that animals see things differently and that their behaviors should not be interpreted as human. Dancing Dogs: Stories also explores a multitude of ways strongly attached individuals interact with their animals and appreciate their unique needs and talents. For example, Katz currently resides on a farm, and a number of his stories chronicle the unique world of “working dogs” and the bonds that are formed as owners train and work with their dogs.

The Spellman novels by Lisa Lutz

spellmanBook – The Spellmans are a madcap, zany family and a lot of fun to spend some pages with. Mom and Dad are the owners and directors of Spellman Investigations and employ their daughter, Izzy, as a detective. The problem is that Izzy is a bit of a rebel and not good at following rules or, in some cases, even the law. Not only do the Spellmans investigate their cases, but they usually have some hidden agendas within their agency and much of their time is devoted to discovering and exposing their own family’s secrets. Izzy’s seemingly perfect lawyer brother is often enlisted for help and her precocious younger sister Rae infiltrates the best-laid plans. Izzy narrates the books and provides footnotes at the bottom of the pages to offer further explanations regarding her family’s background, her romantic foibles and other items of interest. The series kicks off with The Spellman Files and the sixth Spellman novel was published earlier this year.    

Sammy’s Hill by Kristin Gore

sammys hillBook - Chick Lit meets The West Wing and if you enjoy the TV series Scandal you will probably like this book.  This fun, fast read is written by Kristin Gore, daughter of former Vice-President Al Gore. The main character, Samantha Joyce, Sammy, is a 26 year old domestic policy advisor to the Junior Senator from Ohio, Robert Gary.  Sammy is an idealist who shares the Senator’s passion for health care reform.  She is dedicated, big-hearted and loves working on Capitol Hill, never complaining about her 70 hour work week, despite being a hypochondriac and ever hopeful for romance.   During a fact finding mission working on Gary’s latest health care related bill, she meets Aaron, a speechwriter for Senator Bramen a powerful politician with questionable ethics.  Dizzy with love and overworked Sammy mistakenly sends a racy message to over 200 of Capitol Hill’s political elite giving Samantha her first taste of D.C. scandal. Love is in the air, but can her romance with Aaron survive when their bosses become political rivals?  Kristin Gore is a keen observer of politics and definitely shares her insider knowledge of D.C. social life and how things really work in Washington and on the campaign trail. A light enjoyable read and I actually learned a few things.  Good news, if you like this book-there is a sequel, Sammy’s House and rumor has it that there is a movie in the making.

Thud! by Terry Pratchett

thudBook – Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of the City Watch and Duke of Ankh-Morpork, is having a rotten week. The anniversary of the Battle of Koom Valley (when either the dwarfs ambushed the trolls, or the trolls ambushed the dwarfs, depending on who you ask) is approaching, and the city’s dwarfs and trolls are feeling particularly edgy about it this year. On top of that, a painting of the historic scene has (probably) been stolen, a dwarf leader has (probably) been murdered, and Sam has got to be home by 6:00. No excuses. Sam Vimes has long been one of my favorite Terry Pratchett characters, and Thud! has him at his best – overworked, overpaid, and overwhelmed, but still more than able to take on whole armies with the force of his belief in the power of a properly-run police force. While this is one of the later books in the City Watch Discworld series, it’s still entirely enjoyable by the first-time reader, particularly if you enjoy world-weary cops and a bit of bite with your laugh-out-loud humor.