Readers Imbibing Peril IX

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*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!

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

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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.

Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel by Anya Ulinich: Review

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.

Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke: Review

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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.

This Just In…

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!

A More Diverse Universe 2014

DIVERSE

I’ve been putting off signing up for Aarti’s A More Diverse Universe Challenge because I have no idea what I’m going to read for it! I can no longer plan that far ahead. So I’m just going to say I’m doing it and see what happens.

I think I’ll be in the mood for something spooky by then. Any ideas?

The rules are to read at least one POC book during the week of September 14-27. That’s it. Oh and probably post about it.

If you’d like to join up, see Aarti’s post and link up!

Wayward Girls and Wicked Women edited by Angela Carter: Review

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“…the title of this collection is, of course, ironic. Very few of the women in these stories are guilty of criminal acts, although all of the have spirit and one or two of them, to my mind, are, or have potential to be, really evil.” So starts Angela Carter’s introduction to Wayward Girls and Wicked Women.

This collection includes a diverse group of women writers of a variety of races and nationalities about women living in a variety of social classes and conditions. There are clever mothers, vivacious prostitutes, determined girls, and abandoned housewives. These aren’t evil women but women who live outside the norms of their societies. A lot of these stories wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test, but that’s not the fault of the characters or the writers. These are women who live in a man’s world after all. Some of the stories are told from a male point of view, but most are from women.

In Collette’s Rainy Moon, a woman gets back at her ex with witchcraft, Bessie Head’s Life tells of a prostitute who decides to settle down, Djuna Barnes’s The Earth has sisters fighting over land, and the clever mother in Elizabeth Jolley’s The Last Crop outwits a doctor. Angela Carter herself contributed one of her wicked fairy tales to the collection: The Loves of Lady Purple. It’s a twist on Pinocchio, only this puppet awakens with disastrous consequences for its male creator. I haven’t read a Carter story yet that works out for the dude.

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Every Angela Carter story ending.

There are two stories that stand out for me in the book. The first is from The Gloria Stories by Rocky Gamez. In it the unnamed protagonist moves away but receives letters of home from Gloria. Gloria is quite a woman- “she wanted to be a man.” She dresses like one, acts like one, drives a fast car, and womanizes as much as any guy. Until she meets Rosita. Gloria declares in one letter that she will marry Rosita. When the protagonist comes home, she finds Gloria convinced that she’s impregnated Rosita and there is no talking her out of it. I would love to read the rest of Gloria’s adventures.

The second story I loved for different reasons. In The Long Trial by Andree Chedid, a poor mother in a small Egyptian village hopes for advice from a holy man. Instead, he tries blessing her with a benediction of “seven more children.” She flips the F out. She’s already got nine kids! This story shows how important birth control is for impoverished women. It got me right in the heart.

For the most part, I enjoyed the stories. There were a few weird ones and I couldn’t make heads or tales of Wedlock by George Egerton since the dialogue was in a dialect. Still, I would definitely recommend Wayward Girls and Wicked Women. There is something for everybody.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell: Review

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Marriage is hard. It’s not puppies, and kittens, and rainbows all day long. Georgie McCool’s marriage is no exception, in fact it looks like it’s heading down the road to splitsville.

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Georgie just told her husband Neal that she has to work through Christmas. Never mind that they have plane tickets to Omaha where Neal’s parents live. Never mind that Georgie is always choosing work over family. Neal decides that he’s taking their girls to Omaha, with or without her. This is bad news.

Georgie is supposed to be writing a pilot episode for her dream TV show with her best friend Seth, but she finds herself distracted by her personal problems. Instead of going home and facing an empty house at the end of the day, she stays at her mom’s house. There she discovers a portal to the past, a magic phone that for some reason connects her to Neal back in the 1990s. Is this a gift from the universe? A way to change the past or save her marriage?

Landline is such a real grown up book. I loved it. Okay, so there is a magic phone. Why is this happening? What does it mean? Don’t think too hard about it because it never gets explained. Not that that’s a big deal. Just go with it, it’s not important. The phone gets Georgie thinking about her marriage, how they got together and how things got so bad.

Georgie and Neal’s relationship was never an easy thing to begin with. At first it seemed like he didn’t actually like her. He’s a hard man to read. Then as time went on, Georgie’s ambitions overshadowed everything else in her life. Her dreams were never his dreams. He just rolled with it because he loved her. One of the things I liked about Landline was how Georgie was never painted as a bad person for wanting her career. She’s just between a rock and a hard place. She knows she what she is risking yet can’t find a way to balance everything. She beats herself up as much as anyone. Neal isn’t a terrible guy either. It’s tough to shoulder the majority of the parenting. He’s a stay at home dad and while he’s good at it, he’s never had a chance to do anything else. I could see how it would be frustrating for him. They’re living two separate lives even though they are a couple.

And they LOVE each other. Breaking up because two people no longer love each other is one thing but when two people do love each other but are so different, what is the solution? No magic phone can fix it, they have to fix it. I loved the way the book ends. It’s untidy, like life.

Not only are the characters Neal and Georgie so well done, but the supporting characters are great too: Heather, their mom and stepdad, even Seth. Don’t get me started on Seth. Seth, the man-child, is a real problem. Talk about wanting his cake and eating it too. Grr.

I highly recommend Landline by Rainbow Rowell. I got teary eyed a few times during this one. I really like her adult books, Attachments is another favorite. More, please!

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Summer Update

Hey everybody!

I’ve been vacationing with my fam. We went to the beach, and shopping in the city, and- wait for it- zip lining. Yes, I did that. It’s both terrifying and exhilarating. I felt a bit like Katniss Everdeen. I’m not sure I’d do it again, but I can cross that off my bucket list.

I haven’t forgotten about books though. I read Landline by Rainbow Rowell over the last week. Very good book. I recommend it.

BEACH READS

I picked up a few new books when shopping too.

NEW BOOKS

  • The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (I read it already but this edition is gorgeous.)
  • The Last Policeman by Ben Winters

These will be on my list for the RIP Challenge in the fall.

In other news, did you see the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover? Yikes! Creeptastic. Not sure I agree with that National Post article about it being sexualizing but it sure is weird.

River City Reading has a great post (Why I’m Not Reviewing Self-Published Books) in response to an article titled Why Review Blogs Are Doing It Wrong. One thing, in a list of many things, I disagree with in the original article is the idea that book blogs are businesses. I may monetize this blog but it’s a hobby not a business. Authors, book bloggers are not your marketing department. I’m not interested in finding the next big book (what would I get out of that anyway?) I just want to read for my own pleasure. Write a book I’d want to read! That’s how to get a review from me. I don’t have a boss, and I don’t get paid. I have the right to run my blog anyway I like.

Lesley Crewe’s Relative Happiness is a moooooooooooovie! YAY! I can’t remember anything about the book anymore though. I think I’ll have to reread it before it comes out.

That’s it for me today. Do anything, or read anything, fun lately?

Happy August!

AUGUST

Happy August, all! I’m still around. I’ve been doing summer things, like learning how to use my camera. I’m finding Pinterest to be a real help with this. There are so many camera tutorials that are user friendly.

I just picked up Landline by Rainbow Rowell. So far it’s good, I just have to make time to read it. I have to stop watching quality television like Sharknado 2 (but it was so good in a bad way).

Honestly, I’ve been thinking a lot about the fall and looking forward to reading as the leaves change. Things cool off and slow down. I’m not trying to rush through the year but I do love that season.

Later!