Category Archives: Enjoyable

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

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“What do you seek in these shelves?”  Clay Jannon walks into Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore and isMr-Penumbras-24-hr-Bookstore greeted with just this question. What he’s looking for is a job. What he finds is an adventure. Marked by strange customers, tall bookshelves and lots of hours leftover to think and plan.

I loved this book. I was a bit worried when Jannon breaks one of the rules laid out for him by Penumbra, but instead of being in trouble for the indiscretion, he is rewarded for his curiosity. Once that happened, I was able to relax and enjoy the adventure without the fear that our beloved hero would disappoint his mentor.

This is a fun book. It takes you on an adventure that melds the generations gone before with the technology of today. It challenges you to see the extraordinary in your ordinary life. Instead of always looking for something greater that has been left to you by someone else, look around at what you have. Appreciate it. Life your life fully. Don’t waste your days stuck trying to figure out someone else’s journey. Live your own. And be aware of what you are doing.

“I pushed the bookstore’s glass door. It made a bell tinkle brightly up above, and I stepped slowly through. I did not realize at the time what an important threshold I had just crossed.”

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

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The Wild Girl” is a dark and beautiful book that reminds me of King Solomon’s words:Image

“What has been will be again,

what has been done will be done again;

there is nothing new under the sun.”

Dortchen Wild grew up next door to Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm and is one of their main sources for the fables and tales that were rewritten and published to make sure the world didn’t forget the old stories that had been told from generation to generation before them.

The story begins as any good fairy tale does, with young love and adventure and excitement. But, soon, the dark realities of life in the early 1800s in the German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel set in. With war in the background and hunger and poverty in the foreground, we read the story of Dortchen who has to battle evil even in her own home.

Near the beginning of the book, Dortchen and Wilhelm are talking about the power that words have. “He said that words have a remarkable power. The word “God” is only three letters, yet how much meaning is in those three letters? It’s vast, unimaginable. Think of the word “liberty”. Only seven letters, yet it changed a whole country and looks like it might change the world.” This sort of thinking sets up the whole premise of the book. How often do we speak or read words and stories without really examining the meaning behind them. We accept them at face value without delving into the depths that are contained inside. Kate Forsyth does that sort of digging for us, though, and this book is a possible insight into the lives of Wilhelm and Dortchen. She never says that this is their story. But, she lets you know that it could have been. Just as it is the story of so many before and after them.

The book left me with a heavy heart, but it’s the kind of heaviness that reminds me that people are broken and hurting and we need to hear their cries for help, no matter how they are disguised. I didn’t want to put it down. I read it every chance I got hoping for redemption and a happily ever after. I won’t tell you if those come or not. You’ll have to read it for yourself, and you will be glad you did. Enjoy your foray into the tales of your childhood. See how they have changed through the years, and the circumstances that created them, and what may have changed them.

From Notting Hill with Love Actually by Ali McNamara

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notting-hill-love-actually“There’s something very comforting about watching a Hugh Grant movie. You know no one’s head will be blown off in the first three minutes, no one will be tortured, and the worst thing that might happen is seeing a lanky Welshman eating mayonnaise in his underpants.” Ali McNamara

How can you not enjoy a book with thoughts like this? “From Notting Hill with Love Actually” was such a fun read. It is all about Scarlett, a young girl, (ok early 20’s is not necessarily a girl anymore, but the older I get, the younger 23 seems) who loves the movies. Especially any movie starring Hugh Grant. She’s a romantic at heart and wishes her life were more like a romantic comedy. So, she sets off to prove to everybody that romantic and fun coincidences happen every day in real life, just like they do in the movies. She ends up with a house sitting gig in Notting Hill and that’s where her adventures begin.

The book has a fun cast of characters. As you read, you feel as though you are transported onto a big screen… and while Hugh Grant may not actually be in your movie, you fully expect him to waltz into the room at any moment. It’s easy to picture each character and setting because they are all filtered through Scarlett’s movie obsessed brain. Whenever a new person is introduced, they seem vaguely familiar. Like a friend you once knew who has drifted out of your life, but still fits perfectly in your day to day existence.

If, like me, you enjoy an afternoon watching dry british humor mixed with a romantic story, then pick this guy up. You’re going to love it.

If, however, you didn’t actually realize that there are two movies contained in the title of this book, or if Hugh Grant sends shivers (in a bad way) up your spine, then maybe give this one a pass.

The Lonely Men by Louis L’Amour

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“We were hard and lonely men who rode a hard and lonely way. We had known nothing of each other until this ride began in Yuma, and even now we knew scarcely more. But we had sweated and thirsted together, we had hungered and fought, and eaten trail dust together; so now we rode as brothers ride.” -Tell Sackett

The Lonely Men from this book are William Tell Sackett, Tampico Rocca, John J Battles, and Spanish Murphy. The book starts with these men under attack by Apaches. It’s the kind of thing that brings men together. That makes them realize they will fight together as long as one of them needs the others. Even if one of them is sent on a wild goose chase by his estranged sister in law.

Years ago, when Orrin Sackett realized the truth about his wife Laura, he left her with her father, the only man she was capable of loving. After her father dies, her hatred for Orrin turns to a hatred of all by the name of Sackett, so when she meets up with Tell, she decides that if she can’t see Orrin dead, then any old Sackett will do. Tell, on the other hand, hears the name Sackett and runs to her rescue. She sends him off in search of a son that doesn’t exist, telling him that her boy was kidnapped by Apaches and taken south of the border. So these men head straight into Apache territory. Of course there are no Sackett boys down there, but there are 4 other children who were kidnapped and taken to be raised as Apache, who are happy to be rescued.

The story goes from there to a long trail back to Tucson. They make new friends, and new enemies. They ride together as well as alone when the need arises. All the while, you’re hoping they’re going to make it back home, but this being the West in the late 1800’s, you are not guaranteed the outcome you’d like. But, they make the best of it, as everybody does in these books. At one point, they are sitting with a man who would have liked to be a scholar had he been born to another time or place who says, “I have seen my crops grow and my herds increase, and if I have not written words upon paper as I should like to have done, I have written large upon the page of life that was left open for me.” I know these are fictional novels, not self help books, but let’s do this. Let’s write large upon the page of life that is left open for us. Let’s not worry about the things that we don’t get to do, lets simply live this life that we’ve been given the best way we can. Let’s be Sacketts for a while.

Lando by Louis L’Amour

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“There was pride and courage there, and something that told me that when trouble came, this man would stand.

This I respected, for of myself I was not sure. Every man wishes to believe that when trouble appears he will stand up to it, yet no man knows it indeed before it happens.” -Lando Sackett

This book took more effort for me to get into, but by the end, I loved Lando Sackett. Lando’s father left him in the care of an ill-advised man who stole the money left to him and didn’t care for young Lando. As a result, Lando ran away and raised himself in the cabin he and his father had occupied when the former was still around. Since he was not raised by his father, he doesn’t have the same skills and knowledge that most Sacketts possess. What he does have is the ability to think and plan and the courage that seems to be bred into the Sackett line.

Not having tested his abilities, Lando is hesitant to get into a fight, especially a gun fight. At one point, he and his travel companions are set upon by bandits, and he convinces them, through a bit of honest trickery, to leave instead of fight. I love what is said after, “Did you ever see the like? Looks right down a gun barrel and talks them out of it.” There is so much I admire about Lando. This is the decision he makes when he begins to see men who can use a gun quickly, “The first shot must score, and I must shape my mind to accept the fact that I must fire looking into a blazing gun. I must return that fire even though I was hit.” Again, I think that this is a good mentality, because we can’t all be great at everything. Some of us aren’t even going to be good at many things. But, we can fashion our minds to think that we will use what we have to the best of our ability. Also, to be realistic in what we can do. Don’t expect to win if you’re fighting/playing/racing someone with better talent or size than you. But, know how you’ll do, and plan from there.

But, my favorite thought of Lando’s is one that I have had so many times, but have never heard anybody else say. I loved to hear it, especially from a Sackett. If for no other reason than this, I will always have a special place in my heart for one Lando Sackett:

“Trouble with me was, I was a mighty poor hater. There was satisfaction in winning, but winning would have been better if nobody had to lose. That’s the way I’ve always felt, I guess.”

Ride the River by Louis L’Amour

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“How many are there? Of the Sacketts, I mean?”

“Nobody rightly knows, but even one Sackett is quite a few.”

-Echo Sackett

Ride the River is the first Sackett book about a girl. Echo Sackett, named after the girl from Greek mythology, is a mountain girl who can take care of herself. She leaves her home to go to the big city to get some inheritance money that is owed to her. When she gets to the city, she finds herself in the association of men who would like to keep the money for themselves. Lucky for her, the Sacketts who went before her made the kind of friends that last generation to generation and she meets up with 86 year old Finian Chantry. Chantry is a well known and liked lawyer who helps her to get what she is owed. I love this. When three men decide to rob Finian, he replies with this, “You’re a pack of bilge-swilling swine’ Chantry said. ‘I’ve money enough in my pockets to keep you drunk for a month of Sundays, but if you come for it, you’ll be wearing your guts for neckties.” Only Louis L’Amour would have an older gentlemen making threats like this. And then have the ability to back it up.

When Echo heads home with her money, she is followed by a group of men who wish to reclaim it. She leaves the stage behind and heads into the hills to have a bit of advantage. Finian, in fear of just such an arrangement, sends his grandson Dorian Chantry and another man named Archie out to escort her home. Before they are able to catch up, she proves that she is able to take care of herself, as all Sacketts can. When the boys join up with her, she feels the responsibility of them joining her group, and does her part in keeping everybody safe. I liked L’Amour’s representation of a girl. She was brave and strong, but she knew her limits and made up for them with the element of surprise, and a couple of well hidden weapons. But, she was also able to rely on Dorian and Archie when the need arose. At the end of the Sackett books, the hero always gets the girl. This book was no exception, except that this time the hero gets her man.

The Warrior’s Path by Louis L’Amour

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Aah, book three of the Sackett series. I was so excited to get back to my beloved Sackett family, but to tell you the truth, I missed Barnabas a bit. The Warrior’s Path is about his first born son, Kin. He is a very likable fellow, honest and trustworthy. Faithful and full of life as his father was, but without the same experiences and friendships. Of the first three books, this is my third favorite.

I was excited to get to know Kin and Yance. We had gotten glimpses of them in “To the Far Blue Mountains” such as this: “So my son was born on a buffalo robe in the heat of an Indian battle, under a tree by the side of a stream in a wild and lonely land, and he was given his name by a chance remark, a name he would carry forever. For we called him Kin, and thought of no other, and kin he was to all of us, to the meadow, the woodland, and the forest.” As well as this introduction to Yance, “One day when he had offended they put him in the stocks. It took nine men to do it, but they did it. Only that night a girl stole her father’s key and came down and set him free. He built a careful fire against the stocks and burned them down, but by the time the fire was discovered Yance was in the hills, and being Yance, he took the girl with him, and she, being the kind of a girl he would choose, came willingly.”

In the beginning of the book, Kin and Yance are informed that Yance’s sister in law has been captured by Pequot Indians, a fierce and warring tribe that are feared by most. Of course the boys head right out to rescue her as well as her companion who was captured as well. It is not long before they realize that Indians are not behind the capture of the two girls, and set out to not only rescue the girls, but put a stop to any future kidnappings. In true Sackett fashion, Kin makes some friends along the way. But, here begins a new idea, I believe. “Pa always said, ‘I want it understood that no Sackett is ever alone as long as another Sackett lives.” Kin doesn’t need to make as many friends as his father did, because he has family. In the form of actual blood relations, as well as friends of his father who are no less family for their lack of common blood.

As you can see from the timing of these posts, this book was a quick read… done in a day. Short book, short review. This will not be the book that hooks you and makes you want to read the whole series, but that’s ok, because the first two did that. This book is fun and makes me so excited about what’s coming next: Jubal Sackett. I can’t wait to meet him.