Oh, those Russians…

 

HELLO THERE. Long time no see. Did you guys know it was 2016? Yeah, me neither. Anyway, I hope this capricious new year is treating you right a month and a fortnight in. Me? Oh, the flimsy foundations of my life are crumbling to dust around me as I type this, faithful internet friends, but I soldier on, because BOOKS.

So. First actual book review of 2016. Pathetic, I know. I’ll make it up to you by giving you good one. It’s The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra and it unmade me and remade me a dozen times in the span of 352 pages of glorious, astonishing, transcendent prose. WITH RUSSIANS! (+1 Russians)

*heart-eyes emoji*

So. It’s been a while. *Cracks knuckles, brushes dirt off shoulder, backflips.*

Let’s do this.

The Deal (stolen, as always, from the jacket copy): This stunning, exquisitely written collection introduces a cast of remarkable characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and heartbreaking. A 1930s Soviet censor painstakingly corrects offending photographs, deep underneath Leningrad, bewitched by the image of a disgraced prima ballerina. A chorus of women recount their stories and those of their grandmothers, former gulag prisoners who settled their Siberian mining town. Two pairs of brothers share a fierce, protective love. Young men across the former USSR face violence at home and in the military. And great sacrifices are made in the name of an oil landscape unremarkable except for the almost incomprehensibly peaceful past it depicts. In stunning prose, with rich character portraits and a sense of history reverberating into the present, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a captivating work from one of our greatest new talents.

Robyn says: I read the title and that was all it took. Because that is some title. A++. And that cover – love love LOVE. Seriously, before we get into the deeply insightful intellectual discourse you expect to find here at 96 Euston Road (ahem), let’s take a minute to soak in the epic cover-porn of this beauty. And it’s relevant to the book, so it’s pretty AND clever (like me hahahaHA shut up). Because this is a collection of short stories, which is really just a prose narrative mix-tape, right? (See, Mom? That English literature degree is worth something after all!)

Now, onto the book. By Rasputin’s undead head (too soon?), this book was AH-MAAAH-ZING. The writing is stunning – there were times that I had to put aside the book and repeat the last sentence I’d read aloud to myself, just savouring the masterful way Marra uses language. I started to write down my favourite sentences and passages but eventually gave up because there were simply too many. When I buy a copy of this book (eventually), I intend to re-read it slowly and annotate the hell out of it.

As for the stories themselves… I don’t think I’ve reviewed a short story collection on the blog before, have I? If this were any other collection, I’d probably have to rate each story individually, but I won’t do that now. There’s no need, because all of the stories are marvellous, and also I returned the book to the library already and didn’t think to write down all the individual story titles. I loved them all. There were a few I loved even more than the others, but I’d be hard-pressed to choose a favourite. Actually, no, that’s a lie, my favourite was the fourth story, “A Prisoner of the Caucasus.” Another Kolya to add to my list of book boyfriends (it’s weird how many of my book-boyfriends are named Kolya, right?).

What’s really great about The Tsar of Love and Techno, and why I think everyone should read it even if they think they loathe short story collections, is that all of the stories are connected. Ostensibly, it’s the appearance of or oblique reference to a fictional painting by a real-life Russian artist that connects the stories, but there are other things that link the stories, too. The most obvious is the setting – if you hadn’t guessed from the title, the stories all take place in Russia (okay, some take place in Chechnya, but we’ll get to that). The characters are also connected, though sometimes this isn’t immediately obvious. Guys, you would not believe the number of times I realized who the characters of one story were in relation to those of another and actually shrieked in delighted OMG surprise.

The Soviet era and the Chechen War (and, I’d argue, by extension, the damage wrought by two different forms of Russian government) loom over the collection as a whole. As you can imagine, there is a definite grimness to most, if not all, of the stories, but Marra is also very funny. It’s a dark kind of humour–very Russian, and very fitting–and an essential component to the success of the collection.

God, I really loved this book. I feel like I’m gushing, but it’s so hard to talk about something you completely adored without sounding a bit like a teenager swooning over a crush in her pink polka-dot diary.

my mad fat diary

What didn’t I like? Ooh, this is hard. Um… one story felt like it dragged, and I still can’t tell if I thought the last story of the collection was amazing or awful or both and therefore perfect… but I kind of like that, too. It wasn’t simple or easy, and I think that was exactly how the collection needed to end.

What I liked most of all was the connectivity of the collection. I’ve read reviews that said the links were a little too perfect at times, but I think that’s a bit of a churlish critique, and really indicative of how you view the world in general. As Mel Gibson wisely said in the movie Signs, “I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes I saw the sign.” Wait, that’s not right. Oh yeah, here it is:

(Listen, I never thought I’d be quoting Mel Gibson in an M. Night Shyamalan movie either, guys, but this is happening, THIS IS WHO I AM NOW.)

Verdict: DUH. Read this book. Or as they say in Russia according to google translate, читать эту книгу.

Best lines: “You remain the hero of your story even when you become the villain of someone else’s.” (p. 9)

Rating: Canadian rating: 5 out of 5 heroic Soviet cosmonauts circling this pale blue dot we call home. Soviet Russian rating: in Soviet Russia, BOOKS RATE YOU.

JERRY’S ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT: What does a girl have to do to get a square-jawed Russian lover named Kolya?

Now, please enjoy the most Russian thing I could find on the internet:

Over to Book Cat:

Book Cat: “Well, well, so you finally managed to write a review, you slothful Philistine. Tut tut. I suppose you can share this portrait of me and my beautiful Russian friends, since it is in keeping with your theme. These lovely ladies and I were just discussing whether it is possible to fully appreciate the genius and beauty of that titan of Russian literature, Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, if one was not born speaking Russian as one’s mother tongue. Alas, I think not, for surely the clumsy alchemy of translation cannot capture every breath-taking nuance, every monumental innovation of a tour de force like Eugene Onegin. We speakers of English must settle for inferior shadows of the masterpiece, and try not to dwell on what unimaginable wonders were, as the saying goes, lost in translation.”

Er, yes. Yes to all of that.

… Anyways.

Das vedanya, comrades!

 

An apology, and some thirst

Good morrow, my nicely toasted crumpets! How goes it with this thing we call life? I’m currently camped out in the eye of a personal tornado of ADVANCEMENTS, UPHEAVALS, and GENERAL STURM UND DRANG. Mum’s the word for the moment, moppets, but I will tantalize you with a riddle hinting at things to come: Where is the last place on this vast and marvellous planet that a girl who despises sun and spiders and surfers would go? (I am the girl, and I am indeed going to the last place on this blue dot that I would ever go, BECAUSE REASONS.)

 And so, sorrynotsorry for the lack of posts recently. The life tornado, you see. Also I’ve been reading a lot of smut and what is there to say about smut, really? “Five out of five Apollo’s Belts, this book made me think deliciously naughty thoughts, CENSORED etc.” Boring, and also ew.

 On a less, ahem, salacious note, I have also been silent on the blog front because I am currently knee-deep in Susanna Clarke’s colossal Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel, which I’m enjoying so much that I’m not even going to spellcheck this post so I can get back to it, #rebel.

There will be a review, but I’m only 357 pages in… which leaves 649 pages more for me to savor like a fine Lake-town wine. (Great Odin’s ravens, don’t you guys just love big books?)

 Before I rejoin Jonathan Strange in the Peninsula, permit me to share something that has been occupying a great deal of my mind: #ChildermassThirst. In case you haven’t read the book or watched the recent BBC adaptation, Childermass is the servant/right-hand man of Mr. Norrell, and guys, he is BAE. Like, hot. HAWT, even. Observe:

 

Damn.

 

DAMN.

 

DAYUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

(You only get the finest intellectual discourse with me, guys. GET ON MY LEVEL.)

 Oh, hey, Titus. ‘Sup?

You didn’t tell them about the Childermass fanfiction, did you? Oh, book-wrangler, how heavily you edit your personal mythos–

 PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE CAT WITH THE QUIZZICAL BROW. ADIEU! 

Rhead. Thhese. Bhooks.

(The subtitle of this post is “Why is this so good, I don’t know why I like this so much, I probably shouldn’t like this so much but oh my god this is amazing.”)

Christ, poppets, I forget all about you and this silly blog. I’m living it up on this FUNemployment vacation – some days I even brush my hair! I can wear pajamas all day! Bras are optional! Can you believe it? GOOD TIMES.

Seriously, though, kiddies. Learn from my mistakes. Stay the fuck away from the humanities. Get yourself a god-damn STEM degree. Or better yet, marry rich.

So. Today, I am not reviewing a single book, but a series of books. (Or bhooks). Hold on to your butts, babies, today we’re talking BLACK DAGGER BROTHERHOOD!!!!!

I will attempt to use my words today but I cannot guarantee coherency, nor can I deny the (very high) chance of descending into post-verbal communication (so, gifs, basically).

Let’s begin with my own introduction to the insanity that is the Black Dagger Brotherhood, for it is a moment I remember well, the way some people can pinpoint their exact location when they found out Jason Momoa would be playing Aquaman (18 February, 2o15, 21:37 EST, my mom’s house, unfamily room, corner spot of shitty couch, wearing Foghorn Leghorn boxers and an avocado facemask BUT I DIGRESS). Here, let me paint you a word picture:

It was July 2011, and young Robyn was three months into her Masters degree, pursuing her super-smart and not in any way doomed journey to becoming one of those righteous guardians of knowledge, those warriors of intellectual freedom, a librarian. Oh, but all was not well. The summer heat of the hellscape known as London, Ontario, was sucking the young girl’s will to live, leeching her of what little motivation she already had, the slacker. As the papers and projects and readings upon readings upon readings piled up, our wise heroine found herself doing as great minds do when faced with tasks that require the greatest intellectual rigor and dedicated hard work: she started reading a metric fuck-tonne of smut. Thanks to the suspiciously high numbers of smutty e-books offered by London Public Library, Robyn of Procrastina was able to procure her smut without even leaving the tiny, single-room apartment she was only able to live in thanks to a canny combination of emotional blackmail and subtly-executed revenge. Her first pick: Dark Lover, by one JR Ward. Who knows what fateful forces led her to choose that particular book as her first attempt to put off writing essays about library-related shit, but it was undeniably a choice written in the smutty stars, setting her on the path to Brotherhood lust…

I’m serious, though. It’s funny how some things become so important to you that you find it odd that at one point in your life, they weren’t this essential part of your existence and identity. Like, who was Robyn before the Lord of the Rings and Pern and Scarlett O’Hara? How was I a full person without Gogol Bordello and We Were Promised Jetpacks, or Eleanor and Park, or Celaena and Chaol (#TeamChaol forever) – or Sharpe and Harper? As much as I love to make fun of them, the Brothers are another thing I love dearly.

I guess I should explain for you poor, unfortunate souls who have not yet partaken of the chrack. The Black Dagger Brotherhood are the elite warriors of a vampire race that secretly exists in our own world. they aren’t undead and they don’t need human blood to survive. Rather, they are a different species – long-lived, but still mortal – that feeds off the blood of their own kind. They are engaged in an ancient war with this evil dude called the Omega but let’s face it, no one really cares about that. We’re all here for the super-sexy Alpha heroes that are at once ridiculously lust-worthy and also kind of silly, who have their own eccentric vocabulary (shit-kickers…), and who are utterly devoted to their chosen lady-love.

Oh, and every possible word from the invented vampire language has an extra h thrown in. I.e, the band of vampiric bros has to ahvenge any loved ones who were harmed, particularly if they were whards, which means, you guessed, their wards. No one knows why, don’t question it.

The thing about these books is that if you haven’t read one, and all you have to go by are the synopses, they are fucking absurd. And then when you do read them, they’re still kind of absurd. But they are also fucking amazing. There’ a reason this series is so well-loved, and it deserves all of that love. Check out the ratings on goodreads here, and know that they deserve every goddamn star they have.

BUT WHY, ROBYN, you ask plaintively. I will tell you why, my scrumptious, salty baked pretzel.

Well, the whole concept of Ward’s vampires is an entirely original take on an old, over-used trope. The only really vampiric things about them are the aversion to sunlight and the super-human strength. I love that they’re mortal, can have kids and eat food and age, albeit slower than humans – oh, and that they can have really hot, non-creepy sex.

Ah, oui, le sex.

And it is definitely some hot sex. Like, volcanic (get your mind out of the gutter, perv). Steeeeeeamy. Face of the sun hot.

My gif game is ON POINT today, son

On a more serious note, the story-telling is insanely masterful. Ward can suck you in so fast you wouldn’t notice a hoard of ravenous zombies moaning outside your window. And once you’re in, it is, much like the mafia, virtually impossible to get out. You will read these books in as few sittings as you can manage. I may have even pulled all-nighters to finish one or two of the books (*cough* Zsadist *cough*). Seriously, it’s a miracle I managed to finish that degree. Who needs Dewey when you can have Rhage? (Which is a sentence I did not expect to ever write but there you go.) To call them book crack is not merely an amusing turn of phrase – they are addictive. I tore through the whole series like Sherman to the fucking sea. I don’t know how Ward does it, but sweet one-eyed Odin, I hope I one day manage to possess even a fraction of the kind of writing skillz it takes to craft a story that pulls readers in so completely and effectively.

Most importantly, though, are the characters. By which I mean the Brothers, of course, even with their odd names and ridiculous hip-hop slang. Oh, the heroines are (generally) pretty great, too, but yeah, no. We’re here for the guys.

God bless you, Tumblr.

The king, Wrath, and his four – and later more – warriors are the main event. Each one is 6 feet plus of muscular, ass-kicking, adorable, smouldering-hot alpha males. You know there’s gonna be another gif, right?

Yeah, that’s kind of what you could say about most other romance heroes, right? WRONG. Whole other level here, dahlings. But it’s more than that, too. Despite being similar in many ways, each is own distinct character, and that’s pretty hard to do as a writer (trust me, I know, because I suck at it). And Wrath and co are funny. This is especially true of the scenes in which they interact with each other. It’s more like an ensemble cast, really, because they all appear in each book, to varying degrees. It’s like watching a bunch of bros who’ve been friends forever just hang out, rib each other, give each other advice, and save each other’s asses when that pesky plot interrupts all of the chilling. Sometimes they can be kind of dickish to their ladies when they’re still in that adorable refusing-to-admit-they’re-in-love stage, but then when they come around and realize how dickish they’ve been, it is so goddamn satisfying. And they’re by no means perfect. Each hero is broken in his own way… and because this is romance, ONLY LOVE CAN HEAL HIM. God, I love when that happens.

We all have our favourites. I think a LOT of people will say Zsadist, but personally, I’m a Rhage girl all the way… which is pretty fitting, all things considered. Just look at the Rhage tag on Tumblr. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Me, to Rhage.

DON’T YOU JUDGE ME, DAMMIT.

Yes, the books have flaws. There are entire subplots I skim because I simply don’t care, the world-building is flimsy, and the spellings and slang can be downright silly. One serious issue that used to irritate me was that the heroines don’t recur throughout the series in the same way that the heroes do, but recently, Ward seems to be attempting to remedy that. In the last few books, the storylines weave past plots and characters into the current story, and the happy result has resulted in a new feeling to the series as a whole. As heroesandheartbreakers.com puts it, it’s less a series of paranormal romance novels as it is a sexy, supernatural family saga.

And frankly, the books are so goddamn amazing that I find it difficult to discuss even the most obvious flaws. So I won’t. JR Ward is a goddmann genius and grass before breakfast to anyone who says differently. A

And if you don’t believe me, read the books. Start with Dark Lover, because it’s the first, and Wrath is the perfect introduction to the madness that is the BDB. Soar through Lover Eternal with a heart borne aloft by the powerful wings of a majestic Golden eagle, whose gilded plumage pales in comparison to the burnished locks of the resplendent Rhage. By the time you finish Lover Awakened and Zsadist has ripped the throbbing heart of your ribs and taught you what feelings are, you’ll be sending me a basket of gratitude muffins.

IN CONCLUSION: the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward. Come for the

but stay for the

and the

and always, the

You’re welcome.

***

LOOK, EVEN CATS LIKE IT.

The gentlewoman hobo has, rather surprisingly, done an adequate job in her feeble attempt to extoll the many virtues of Ms. Ward’s beloved series. And I must concur – these books are indeed among the most praise-worthy of any I have read, albeit for less prurient reasons than those provided by my vulgar human companion. Let neither feline nor human say that Titus Ignatius Andronicus is a literary elitist! Here and now, I declare my love of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, a truly wonderful collection of novels. Also, #TeamZsadist. Obviously.

OH, TITUS.

To me, fair friend, you never can be old

Happy maybe-Birthday, Shakespeare!

Bring on the cakes and ale

Yes, today is the day we traditionally celebrate the birth of the greatest English writer, William Shakespeare – the Bard of Avon, “not of an age, but for all time.” Happy 451st, Will!

Do you have a favourite play, or a favourite quotation? I love “Boldness be my friend! / Arm me, Audacity, from head to foot!” from Cymbeline (I, vi), but I think my most beloved lines come from Sonnet 29, “When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes”:

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate

I don’t know what it says about the state of my life that I often find myself muttering those words to myself without even realizing it.

¯_(ツ)_/¯

ANYWAY.

As you all probably know by now, our favourite Book Cat is named after one of ole Shakey’s characters, one horrifically creative and rightfully vengeful Roman general, Titus Andronicus (seen below planning to serve his enemy a pie made of her own sons).

To honour the great Bard and celebrate this monumental day in literary history, me and my boy T are spending the evening curled up in matching chicken suits (DON’T ASK) to eat some none-people-containing pie and watch the amazing film adaptation of Titus, with intermittent bouts of competitive recitations. He’ll probably win, the furry little nerd.

You know I love you, you foolish human. As Miranda says to Ferdinand, "I would not wish / Any companion in the world but you." Even when you dress me up in  a chicken suit.

You know I love you, you foolish human. As Miranda says to Ferdinand, “I would not wish / Any companion in the world but you.”
Even when you dress me up in a chicken suit.

TITUS! YOU ADORABLE CURMUDGEON! I KNEW YOU CARED!

To Shakespeare – thanks for all the words! Enjoy your cakes and ale, you poor players –

[Exit, pursued by a bear]

Code Name Hangry.

I lied to you, party people. LIED. (Surprise, surprise.) This week we will not be Tolkien about Tolkien (lol nerd) because I did not, in fact, indulge in a Ringer re-read.

sad bowie

DON’T BE SAD, BOWIE. IT WILL HAPPEN SOON. But, as Aragorn son of Arathorn, Isildur’s Heir, would say, it is not this day.

No, this day is for another book about war and the destruction it wreaks on everything it touches. I read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

code name verity

The Deal: (Taken from the book jacket AGAIN, because I’m packing for Ireland and frankly, you guys are lucky you are even getting one of my brilliant, elegantly-written posts this week, so there):

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Robyn says: Finally, a great book to pull me out of my slump. I’m actually at a little bit of a loss with this one, because it was so good. What do you say when a book is damn near perfect?

Well, to begin with, I loved the setting. Anything historical is like a siren’s song, and WWII is my particular catnip. Then add all of the amazing feminism and excellent female friendships and it’s like, HOW HAVE I NOT READ THIS ALREADY? We don’t get nearly enough stories about the women who contributed to the war effort, so this novel was a fresh perspective on a part of history I now want to learn everything about.

(That is a very important gif. I suggest you add it to your gif folder.)

Loved the characters. Verity and (spoiler?) Queenie, eccentric liars and storytellers, are my heroes, but all of the other characters were excellently rounded. I loved the way we gradually began to learn more about Verity’s captors, too. Hell, I want a dozen more books about Verity’s family and what happens to everyone after the war and please tell me Maddie and Verity’s brother live happily ever after because SOMEONE HAS TO, DAMMIT.

The best thing about this book, though, was the construction; specifically, its use of the unreliable narrator. The experience of reading Code Name Verity is a literary bait-and-switch. Three quarters of the way through the story, you realize everything you’ve read is untrue or partially true, and that Verity has been playing us as much as her captors. It’s a lovely, beautifully-executed trick, and Wein pulls it all of masterfully. Initially, I’d felt the story was rather slowly paced for my tastes, and I considered adding it to my mountain of DNFs. I am so so so glad I didn’t, because the final quarter of the book is like a trip through Willy Wonka’s psychedelic tunnel of hell, and everything that came before it is absolutely essential to get to that last heart-destroying stretch.

The novel is divided into two parts, the first narrated by Verity, the second by her best friend, Maddie. Maddie’s story is where all of the action plays out, and it’s also where YOUR HEART WILL BE RIPPED FROM YOUR CHEST LIKE IT HAS DECIDED TO STAGE A CAREFULLY PLANNED ESCAPE FROM ITS RIBBY PRISON. Yeah… I wasn’t expecting the Event. The Event which I will not discuss here. It’s dark – very dark – but I’m glad it is. Like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Book ThiefCode Name Verity doesn’t shy away from the ugliness and brutality of war. Nor should it.

Verdict: Read it. It will take you a week to digest and another week to get over. Then tell everyone you know to read it and if they don’t never speak to them again.

Best lines: Way too many to write them all here. I loved everything Verity says about lies and liars. One of my favourites: “But I have told the truth. Isn’t that ironic? They sent me because I am so good at telling lies. But I have told the truth.”

And then there’s “KISS ME, HARDY! Kiss me, QUICK!” and goodbye now I have to go drown myself in a pool of my own tears.

Rating: Four out of five broken hearts because this book broke four of my hearts and now I only have the little, shriveled, black one to keep me going. Shit, I’ve said too much. Hm, what? Oh, nothing to see here, just your average, one-heart-having lady. *Walks away, hands in pockets, whistling ‘God Save the Queen.*

Book Cat?

book cat bookshelf

Sweet Fancy Bastet, she found me! Be gone, pitiful scholar-hobo! I dwell above thee now, as is right and good and ever meant to be!

Oh Book Cat.

Slán, party people. I leave you with an image of me, having to relive my Code Name Verity soul-agony, just for you. You’re welcome.

gob hello darkness

Suck it, Resolutions

WELL WELL WELL. Look who’s starting 2015 right. Yup, it’s THIS GUY. Suck it resolutions, I AM ACHIEVEING YOU.

anigif_optimized-4694-1419359747-6

Did you miss me, darlings? Don’t try to deny it, I know you did. I’m sure 2014 was barren and joyless without me and Book Cat to warm your cold hearts and empty lives. No, no, let’s not get at all mushy. We didn’t miss you at all. Seriously, stop weeping, you’re embarrassing yourselves.

ANYWAY. I’m going to do what I always do, and forget anything and everything unpleasant until it suits me to take bloody revenge on who- or whatever has crossed me (that’s right, sleep with one eye open, 2014, you bastard). So we’ll just pretend last year’s “hiatus” never happened and jump right in.

The first book I’m reviewing this year is the last book I read last year: Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

bird box

The Deal: (Taken from the book jacket, because there’s no way in hell to explain this briefly without spoiling everything, which reminds me, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS…, er, later): Most people ignored the outrageous reports on the news. But they became too frequent, they became too real. And soon, they began happening down the street. Then the Internet died. The television and radio went silent. The phones stopped ringing. And we couldn’t look outside anymore. Malorie raises the children the only way she can; indoors. The house is quiet. The doors are locked, the curtains are closed, mattresses are nailed over the windows. They are out there. She might let them in. The children sleep in the bedroom across the hall. Soon she will have to wake them. Soon she will have to blindfold them. Today they must leave the house. Today they will risk everything

OOH, SPOOKY.

Robyn says: Damn. This was a really great read, one of those books that just sinks its claws into your gut and yanks you right into the world inside its pages. I read this the day before New Year’s Eve and I can honestly say, in my best Gandalf voice, I have no memory of that day.

What’s so great about it? Well, it’s a brilliant, creative idea, and something I haven’t encountered before – the idea that seeing the monster is what will lead to your death. It’s terrifying and intriguing. It speaks to something very primitive and childlike, like the part of me that still thinks a blanket over my head will keep me safe when I hear something moving around in the dark corners of my bedroom. Because I totally believe that, and you’re a liar if you say you don’t, too. But which of us can say we don’t eventually pull back the corner of that blanket-armour and crack one eyelid open, casting a slivered gaze into the darkness, breath held, desperate to see what scares us? Humans are visual animals. Sight is our greatest asset to survival, after our big ol’ brains. In Bird Box, sight is Malorie’s greatest weakness – sight, and her own mind, full of fear and uncertainty. Oh, and other people, too, of course. Because this is an apocalyptic horror novel, and by now I think we all know it’s other people you have to look out for, even when invisible, madness-inducing ‘creatures’ are trying to get you to look at them. (Side-note: I kind of feel bad for the creatures. Maybe they are just really needy, insecure dudes looking for validation. Imagine if every time you asked someone how you looked, they went crazy and killed everyone around them before finding a creative and gruesome way to commit suicide… Time for a new look, lol)

The story is exceptionally well-paced, so suspenseful that there was never a lull. The setting shifts from the early days of the crisis to the present, four years later, a single day in which Malorie decides to venture out of the safety of her house with the two young children in her care. I thought this worked really well. It allowed the author to provide exposition without the dreaded infodump, and also heightened the almost unbearable level of suspense. *Cartman voice* Seriously, you guys. I was totally on edge the entire time I was reading. Ooooh, you know what the word is? TAUT. I never get to use that word. IT WAS TAUT.

Some of the not so great things? Well, I really liked this book, so it’s difficult to find many flaws. I did think the characters sometimes fell a little flat. Malorie felt underdeveloped, which is probably odd for a POV character. The supporting characters were blurry (with the exception of Tom, who I wish we had gotten to know a little better). The kids were more like pets, for all that we are told about them.

Something else: for a horror novel, it was a little… family friendly. PG-13. Tame. Antiseptic. Ok, fine, I’ll just say it. MORE BLOOD, PLEASE. Yes, the psychological terror was awesome and effective and made me sleep with my nightlight on. Okay, with an extra nightlight on (SHUT UP). Still. I felt the story would have been improved a little by seeing something. It was like you’re waiting, waiting, waiting to finally see what we (and Malorie) aren’t supposed to see… and then you don’t.

Yeah. But maybe… sequel?

Verdict: Loved it. Read it. Totally worth the night of sleep you will inevitably forfeit to find out what happens next.

Best lines: A lot of great lines in this one, but I didn’t write any of them down because I was so engrossed in the story. Everyone else seems to love this one – thank Odin someone tore their eyeballs away from the page long enough to make a note of it. “It’s better to face madness with a plan than to sit still and let it take you in pieces.” Totally agree, dude.

Rating: Four out of five black shadow-monsters lurking in your bedroom closet tonight, waiting for the moment when you let your little head peak out from under the magic blanket and they ATTACK. Try getting to sleep now MWAHAHAHAHA.

Book Cat? Anything to add? How was 2014 for you?

titus bird box

My year, Librarian? It was infinite and infinitesimal, it was wonder and despair, it was magnificence and triviality. I am all things and all things are me, for I am Cat… Oh, read your books, puny-brained human. Write your words. I speak without speaking and my silence is a symphony. How I love you, simple creature.

Oh, Titus.

Until next time…

anigif_enhanced-27506-1417377366-7 Mwah!

Book Cat is Famous Once Again!

Emergency post!!!

I hope all of you subscribe to PBS’s Idea Channel on YouTube, because not only is it awesome and insightful and brain-embiggening… but this week it featured Book cat in a Russian Hat!!! Yay! Yet another victory in Titus’s ongoing campaign to rule the world! Pause at 1:04 to witness the momentous occurrence.

AHHHHH! Kermit arm flail!

kermit flail

You guys remember the post, right? It was a filler post for when I was rereading Anna Karenina.

Well. Congratulations all around. I don’t know why but I’m in a good mood. Fun times, y’all.

Book Cat, aren’t you excited?

Excited, Librarian? No. Did not Longfellow once say, "Fame comes only when deserved, and then is as inevitable as destiny, for it is destiny"? 'Twas destiny that brought me to these lofty heights, and destiny that shall raise me ever higher, until all the world knows the name of Titus Ignatius Andronicus, Book Cat and Supreme Ruler of the World!

Excited, Librarian? No. Did not Longfellow once say, “Fame comes only when deserved, and then is as inevitable as destiny, for it is destiny”? ‘Twas destiny that brought me to these lofty heights, and destiny that shall raise me ever higher, until all the world knows the name of Titus Ignatius Andronicus, once called Book Cat. All shall tremble and know my mightiness!

O…kay…