August 29, 2014

Readers Imbibing Peril IX

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lavinia-portraitRIP400

*Tiny screams!!!*

It’s that time of the year again. Sweaters, and Pumpkins, and Goblins. Oh my! It’s time for Carl’s Readers Imbibing Peril number nine. I can’t wait to crawl under a blanket with a Pumpkin Spice Latte and a scary book.

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This time will be different since it’s the first year I’ve worked during the fall. I’m still taking on Peril the First.

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between. 

I’ve got a short list of Want To Reads but they look so good!

rip books

  • The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson
  • The Scapegoat by Daphne duMaurier
  • The Last Policeman by Ben Winters
  • Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
  • Monstrous Affections (Anthology)

Also for Peril of the Short Story

  • The Grey Woman by Elizabeth Gaskell (Librivox)
  • The Camp of the Dog by Algernon Blackwood (Librivox)
  • The Lake by Tananarive Due (Also a pick for A More Diverse Universe Week)

This is such a fun challenge and a great way to find more spooky books. My TBR list continues to grow and much of the problem is RIP!

Happy RIPing!

August 27, 2014

2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino: Review (Audiobook)

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2am cats pjs

All nine year old Madeleine Altimari wants to do is sing. She’s been practicing, perfecting her craft, waiting for her moment. On Christmas Eve Eve, it seems like she’ll get her chance to perform at school but once again her dreams are thwarted. Her day just gets worse, until she hears about The Cat’s Pajamas, the second best jazz club in Philadelphia. Somehow she’ll find her way there and make her debut. Lorca, the owner of The Cat’s Pajamas, is not having a good day himself. The club is in trouble. If he can’t come up with $30,000, the club will close.

As Madeleine schemes a way to get to The Cat’s Pajamas and Lorca considers ways of finding a pile of cash, Madeleine’s teacher Sarina plans to meet a group of old friends for dinner. Sarina is back in Philly after a divorce. Among the dinner guests is her high school crush.

All these characters will find themselves part of the events that happen that night at 2 am at The Cat’s Pajamas.

2 am at The Cat’s Pajamas is more storytelling than plot or character. The narrator is third person omniscient and floats along through the story touching upon lesser characters that appear for a few moments before catching up with the main protagonists.

Most of the events revolve around the three main characters: Madeleine, Sarina, and Lorca. As they go about their day, they look back upon major events in their lives. For Madeleine, her life took a terrible turn when her mother died and her father tapped out of his. She is not completely alone though. She has Mrs Santiago, the storekeeper, who makes sure she’s feed and taken care of.

Sarina keeps thinking of her old crush Ben and her awful prom experience. She thought she was beyond all the teenage drama. She was married to a successful handsome man, until they divorced. Now she’s back in Philly, about to see her old friends, and wondering what Ben is going to think of her.

Lorca inherited The Cat’s Pajamas from his father and now he’s about to lose it. His girlfriend just left him and his son is angry with him. His old friends, the house band, depend on him for everything. There’s only one way to save the club but he’s reluctant to do it.

Structurally the novel is unique and interesting, but since this was an audiobook I really had to keep on my toes and pay attention. It was easy to get lost. I’m pretty sure I missed some things. 2 am at The Cat’s Pajamas is an entertaining, and sometimes sad story, but there were some magical realism elements thrown in that, to be honest, didn’t add anything. The last few minutes of the book was kind of out there. 

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Like, whaaaaat?!

I thought it was great right up until that moment. I looked at my player and saw a couple of minutes left and thought, “I guess that’s…it?” I’d still rate 2 am at The Cat’s Pajamas high. I’d love to know what happens to these characters after Christmas Eve Eve.

About the Audio: Angela Goethals does the narration and has good projection. She gives the men at the club interesting accents. Something I appreciated was how she didn’t try to sing the musical parts. Many narrators sing and they are not good at it.

Thanks to Random House Audio for the audio file for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

August 21, 2014

Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel by Anya Ulinich: Review

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lena finkle Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel by Anya Ulinich has a weird title but is an excellent graphic novel. You could call it a coming of age story where the youth in question is thirty-seven years old. Lena’s first marriage was one of convenience since it got her a green card; her second marriage was horrific but it got her two children. Now divorced, Lena realizes that she’s never fallen in love, or had a wild phase like so many of her New York lady friends. When she was a teen, she had a relationship with a boy in Russia. She’s never cut ties with Alix and after a visit with him during a book tour, she thinks he’s The One. A friend advises that maybe she shouldn’t get ahead of herself and date a few more guys before turning her life upside down. Lena takes this advice with enthusiasm and fills her calendar with OKCupid dates. Although she meets some interesting men, nothing really sticks until she meets The Orphan.

I enjoyed reading Lena’s dating experiment. As someone who was married long before the online dating culture, I find it fascinating. It’s seems both exciting and terrifying. Lena compares it to buying shoes online.

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She ends up having a lot of sex, whether or not she actually enjoyed it was questionable. It’s more a part of figuring out what she wants. Even a more experienced friend tells her not to sleep with them all on the first date (not that she listens). I felt like she wasn’t trying to get to know any of the men, rather she was just trying to get through them to some other goal. Then she meets The Orphan. The Orphan (all her dates have nicknames) isn’t an OKCupid date but a guy she meets on the bus. She gets overly attached to him. I cringed through this whole part. I literary shook my head and thought, “No, Lena, no!”

Interspersed throughout are Lena’s memories of her childhood and marriages. She struggles with her immigrant identity. Her parents are always “coming to America” conversely she believes they have arrived. Her past, her life in Russia and a recent immigrant, constantly influences her present relationships.

Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel might be the longest graphic novel I’ve read (362 pages). There’s a lot of text as well as illustration. The drawings are in black and white. Lena’s present is realistically drawn while her memories are more cartoonish. The book seems autobiographical; Anya and Lena look alike, for sure. I’m not certain how much is from the author’s life, and maybe I don’t want to know!

I loved that Lena was a woman my age rediscovering herself, and her willingness to put herself out there without a lot of angst over her age or appearance. She doesn’t change anything about herself physically other than getting her bangs cut (something she does for herself!). She dates men of all ages without moaning, “Oh no, he’s too young! What could he want with an old biddy like me?” (I’m looking at you Stella.) She just gets out there and does it. Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel was funny, touching, and sometimes cringe worthy.

My thanks to Penguin Books for sending me this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

August 19, 2014

Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke: Review

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mind of winter

Creepy!

Holly Judge and her daughter Tatty are trapped alone in their house on Christmas Day as a snowstorm rages outside. Holly woke with the unsettling sensation that “Something followed them home from Russia” where she and her husband adopted Tatty 13 years earlier. Holly’s husband left that morning to retrieve his parents from the airport, and as the day progresses, it becomes clear that they and the rest of their guests will not arrive. Holly tries to keep Tatty’s spirits up but Tatty is determined to make her mother miserable. Holly’s sense of unease grows as Tatty exhibits more and more strange behaviour. Is Holly right? Did some evil force follow them from Russia?

Mind of Winter is such a claustrophobic novel, it’s Hitchcock-esque. It reminded me of We Have Always Lived in the Castle too. Everything happens in one day between two people in one house. Holly thinks back to how she and her husband went to Russia to adopt Tatty. She muses over her motherhood experience and whether or not she’s done right by Tatty. I’ve got to say Tatty seemed like a real pain in the rear, as teenaged girls often are to their moms, but she is a special case. After a while though, I started to suspect that Holly was a bit off herself. And then the end, wow, I did not see that coming.

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Even though Holly is a little wacky, I sympathized with her and her struggles with motherhood. In fact, it’s scary how much of myself I saw in her. There is no way to know if you’re doing the parenting thing right. Nobody can tell you. I know I don’t have the patience of that Duggar mom, and fear that my kid will be writing posts for xoJane 15 years from now (It Happened to Me: My Mom Wouldn’t Buy Me an iPhone).

I managed to read Mind of Winter in one day. I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know what was going on in that house. It’s a slow build, a psychological thriller, with a somewhat unreliable protagonist. Be patient. The payoff is worth it.

August 18, 2014

This Just In…

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Good news, everyone! I will be going back to work. I just found out and I’m rushing around getting all my ducks (my kid, and husband) in a row. I’m looking forward to it because Money, but it’s going to slow down my blogging. Just as I was getting back into the blogging mood. I hope once I get into a routine that I’ll get back to a normal reading and blogging schedule. I have so many books I want to read.

Speaking of books…

Here’s a couple that came in the mail last week.

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I actually finished Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel today. I’ll get a review of that up soon. Horrorstor looks so fun! It’s so cleverly designed. I’ve also downloaded an audiobook of 2am at the Cat’s Pajamas.

If you’d like to read a review from me, check out The Project Gutenberg Project where I reviewed Le Petit Nord. There is a twist in this review. I got fooled!

Stay tuned for reviews!

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