When the man comes around

Holla, readers! Where have I been, you ask? Why, I’ve been lurking in the darker corners of the internet, hoarding all of the Vikings gifs I can get my greedy little hands on. It’s been a very productive fortnight. My entire hard-drive now consists of variations of this:


I regret nothing. YOLO and so on.


This week I’m reviewing White Horse by Alex Adams.


Try to look at that cover and not imagine an ornery Gandalf the White stamping his foot and shouting “Shadowfax, come back here at once! We’ve got to go find the Sex God of Rohan and then ride to the rescue everyone at Helm’s Deep! Shadowfax, DID YOU HEAR ME? Bad mearh*! No oats for you!”

No? It’s only me? Okay then.

Here’s the deal: Zoe is thirty years old, working as a cleaner at Pope Pharmaceuticals. It’s not a perfect job, but it pays the bills. Life goes on, tugging Zoe along with it, and for a while, she walks that ideal line separating awesome from awful. Her biggest problem is figuring out a way to get out of her sister’s dinner party… until the jar appears. She arrives home from work one morning to discover that someone has broken into her apartment. Except instead of finding anything gone, Zoe finds something that has been left, something that wasn’t there before. An opaque, stone-coloured jar that looks old, ancient, even, like something that belongs in a museum. She tries to understand why the jar terrifies her, and why she can’t bring herself to open it, but even the help of charismatic (and kind of hot) therapist, Dr. Nick Rose, isn’t enough to convince Zoe that something is about to go horribly wrong. Then, as though some sort of switch has been flipped, everything goes straight to hell. People start getting sick, sick people start dying, and the people who are left stop acting like people. The world is ending, and all Zoe can do is run.


This book was INTENSE. Because I am incapable of ambivalence, I loved it, even though it wasn’t perfect. Let’s start with the good. No, let’s call it great, because when this book was good, it was hella good. First, the subject matter. I am a sucker for anything apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, maybe because I know that it is only in a Mad-Maxian dystopia populated by creatively-costumed bikers with a thirst for vengeance that I will truly shine, reigning as a blood-thirsty and merciless warlady known for a strict adherence to lex talionis justice and favouring creative epithets. Wait, did I lose you there? Sorry. I tend to get carried away once I get started on my post-apoc plans – er, I mean, fantasies. Yes, fantasies.


Sooo. Where were we? Oh, right, the good stuff. The structure of the book was brilliantly done. Going back and forth from the past, before the apocalypse, or then, to the present, now, the split heightened the suspense to an almost unbearable degree. It also caused me to lose several nights of sleep while I devoured the book like a kid reading Harry Potter for the first time. The unusual structure not only increased the narrative force of the numerous mysteries at the centre of the novel, it also emphasized the true extent of society’s deterioration following the pandemic that effectively ends the world. Very well done, Ms. Adams.

I also loved the writing. I’ve read some internet comments that critiqued the abundant use of metaphors and similes, but I actually found the writing quite beautiful and engaging. The use of rhetorical devices never drew me out of the story, as bad writing is wont to, but merely struck me as a stylistic choice of the author’s that, if I noticed it at all, impressed me rather than annoyed me.

And I must admit that I did like the [spoiler, maybe?] love story. I thought it was very well done, never over-shadowing the primary woman vs. post-apocalyptic world plot. Yeah, I’m a romantic. Sue me.

Now, the not so good. I didn’t really ever feel a connection to the narrator and hero of the story, Zoe. I think she could have been more fleshed out, more interesting, and less of a blank slate. That can be a problem in novels told in the first person, though, and it wasn’t a huge complaint. At least it let you project yourself into the plot, if that’s your thing. I had a bigger problem with Zoe’s – how should I put it? oh, yeah – IDIOCY. You might know by now that I am a rabid realist, even when it comes to fantasy. I need to believe, people. If, for example, a kid witnesses her father’s head getting chopped off because he didn’t realize that you should ever cross a Lannister, I am so not going to believe that she, say, jumps up and grabs her father’s sword and cuts of stupid Joffrey’s head and then live happily ever after, now, am I? No, that little girl is going to sneak away and suffer a lot and nurture a serious grudge against a long list of people while experiencing some serious PTSD. Now that is believable (and I doff my cap to you, GRRM).

Not believable is Zoe trying to adhere to some stupid pre-apocalypse code of morals (or is it ethics? I never know). No, Zoe, you don’t help people after society collapses. YOU TRAMPLE THEM INTO THE GROUND WHILE CLAWING YOUR WAY TO SURVIVAL. Duh. And that is why I will be HBIC.

I also felt the story was a bit sluggish at times. I mean, I get that you’re walking everywhere, Zoe, but can you hurry it up a little? Also, the explanation for the pandemic was either amazing or ridiculous. I still haven’t decided. One word: cats. (???) Discuss amongst yourselves. And then come back and tell me what the hell I should think.

Verdict: Read it. It’s not The Road, which is the king of all apocalypse fiction, but then again, maybe that’s a good thing because that means it will not terrify the living daylights out of you and make you want to rip out your own heart because all of the feelings are just TOO MUCH, MAN.

Best lines: Lots to choose from, but I liked: “These fringe people are smarter than the rest of us. Forced to exist on the periphery of society, they’ve developed skills suburbanized people allowed to devolve. They grow what they eat. Each member of their clan performs tasks to help the whole. While the rest of us were mourning junk food, they kept doing what their people have done for generations. Cogs in a simple, elegant machine.” (p. 206). Woo-hoo, Roma pride!!

Rating: Three and a half out of five post-apocalyptic mutant people.

Book Cat, why are you on top of the bookshelf?

In the words of your Tolkien, "A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it." In other words, I came up here because White Horse scared me and now I'm too afraid of the height to jump down. So I'm just going to lie here until you stop papping me and rescue me.
In the words of your Tolkien, “A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.” In other words, I came up here because White Horse scared me and now I’m too afraid of the height to jump down. So I’m just going to lie here until you stop papping me and rescue me.

Silly kitty. Later gators!

*Mearh is the singular of mearas, the preternaturally intelligent and strong breed of horses ridden by the kings and princes of Rohan. And I just out-nerded myself there, didn’t I?

I don’t get mad, I get stabby. Dowton Stabby.

I know, I know. I suck. Bad blogger, bad blogger. Mea culpa and all that. Been busy, darlings. And by busy I mean so unemployed that a productive day for me now comprises solely of putting on a bra and actual, non-pajama clothes to write my Lord of the Rings fanfiction. Ha ha ha (sob).

Still, onwards and upwards, eh? And I suppose it’s not all bad. I’ve got a plan, see? I’m just going to obey my evil hairdresser and do the Secret. According to him, if I simply want a job bad enough, I will just GET ONE! Just like that! Poof, job! Can you believe it, guys? I merely haven’t wanted it enough for the past ten and half months! Who knew!



So I guess I should blog about a book, right? That’s why you’re here. Been reading a lot, but since this started as a YA book blog, and since I’ve been pimping it out as the Best YA Book Blog Ever on my resume (oh, hi, potential employers! Hire me!), I’m going to blog a YA book today: It’s Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame.

wentworth hall grahame

Groan. Well, in the words of King Harry, once more unto the breach, dear friends.

Wentworth Hall is home to the Darlingtons, one of Britain’s most respected aristocratic families. In the summer of 1912, though, not all is at it seems. Eighteen-year-old Maggie Darlington has just returned from an extended trip to France with her mother, and to her younger sister, sixteen-ear-old Lila, she has become an entirely different person. Cold and reserved, Maggie has little time for her sister, and seems to forgotten her other old friends as well, including Michael, the handsome groom who looks just like Michael Fassbender. But Maggie isn’t the only one with secrets. The new French nanny, Therese, the Darlington’s arrogant houseguests, Teddy and Jessica, and even Lord and Lady Darlington – all are hiding something, while Wentworth Hall begins to crumble with the ebbing of the Darlington fortune. Will anyone manage to keep their secret for long?

I’m so sorry. But I’m pretty sure that synopsis hurt me more than it hurt you. I had to write it, after all. Shudder.

And did you notice the tag on the cover: “And you thought there were secrets at the Abbey…”


Yeah, I should have probably guessed what I was getting into.

Terrible. So so so terrible. Stereotypical, flat characters that were an insipid as they were ridiculous. Plodding plot that lacked any inspiration or urgency. Lazy writing (that was also too obviously historically inaccurate, even for a teen book). God, it was so terrible that I didn’t even care about the setting (and as you all know, I am a historical novel addict). The worst offense of all, of course, was that Wentworth Hall is a shameless rip-off of Downton Abbey, the world’s favourite TV series. Actually, that’s not the worst offense. The worst offense is that it’s a really terrible shameless rip-off of Downton Abbey. I mean, come on. I am a lady who admitted to writing Lord of the Rings fanfiction a few paragraphs ago. I have no problem with rip-offs.

As long as they are high-quality rip-offs.

To be honest, I wouldn’t even have finished this book if I hadn’t been reading it in the bathtub during one of my two-hour Unemployed Person baths. Usually I take a back-up book so as not to be held hostage by a book, but I thought Wentworth Hall would be a harmless little guilty-pleasure romp along the lines of the The Luxe, which I actually liked. How wrong I was, eh? So I had no choice but to keep hate-reading. And even though I finished it yesterday, I already forget most of what happened. Huzzah for wilful disrememberment (which is the new name of my autobiography, coming to a bookstore near you sometime in the next decade or two)!

Verdict: Do not read this thinking it will sate your ravenous Downton Abbey cravings now that season 3 is over. It will so not. In fact, you might have to re-watch season 1, which was the best one, to cleanse your brain. Then haul ass to the library and check out every BBC costume drama you get your dainty little gloved hands on. I highly recommend The Forsyte Saga.

And remember:

never wrong

Best line(s): “The end.” (Okay, so I don’t think that line actually appeared in the book, but you know what I mean.)

Rating: 1 out of 5 crumbling manor houses symbolizing centuries of the systemized oppression of the working class by a moneyed elite. Such pretty dresses though!

Book Cat, you’re back! Care to share your thoughts, oh furry one?

I'm too tired from playing Vikings to contribute to your trivial and inconsequential blogging endeavour right now, Librarian. Now. Where is my sword? There are mice village to be plundered!
I’m too tired from playing Vikings to contribute to your trivial and inconsequential blogging endeavour right now, Librarian. Now. Where is my sword? There are mice villages to be plundered!

Yes. It has come to this. Today, I made a little Viking helmet for my cat and then snuck up on him while he was reading the Saga of the Volsungs so I could take a series of increasingly disturbing photos to add to my collection of disturbing cat cosplay photos. And that, dear readers, is the definition of a New Low.

Until next time!

A toothsome book (oh yeah, I went there)

Howdy darlins! No new developments out here in suburbia. Still toiling away at my “novel” (ugh, why does that word always make me cringe? I feel like I’m breaking both the first and second rules of Fight Club when I mention it). Researching til my eyes bleed. Okay, so much of that researching consists of watching super-cuts on YouTube. I am only human, people.

Enough preamble. I bore myself. This week, it’s Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.


Karou’s living the dream, if your dream is to study art in Prague and have window-cleaner blue hair that actually grows out of your head that way (and if that’s not your dream, what is WRONG with you?). But there is more to Karou than meets the eye. She lives a double life, working for Brimstone, a creature who collects teeth, both human and and otherwise. When black handprints start appearing on doorways around the world, handprints that appear to have been seared into wood and metal, Karou’s odd but happy existence is thrown into chaos. Karou finds herself in the middle of a war between worlds, desperate to save her adopted family of monsters and discover who – and what – she truly is.

(FYI, my feeble synopsis does not do the plot justice. As usual.)

Ah, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. What a long, strange trip it has been. I am ashamed to admit it now, but I held out. I held out a LONG time. I did not want to read this book. Why? Literally judging a book by its cover. (Lol.) The title annoyed me beyond all description, too catchy, too trendy, too, I dunno, too ‘gothic twee’ (is that a thing?). And that cover. Crikee. I cannot tell you how much I hate that stupid cover. Ultra white girl in blue feather mask. Um, yeah. No.

Turns out the title is actually incredibly fitting, even if it does sound like the title of an Evanescence come-back album. The cover I still hate. I much prefer this one:


MUCH better.

So… This book. THIS BOOK. Gah. I loved it. Most of it. Even the parts I didn’t like don’t make me love it any less.

First, the mythology, the – dare I say it – world-building. Laini Taylor, I can only stand by and slow clap because damn, lady, ya did good. I tip my hat to you. She’s taken some familiar creatures (or not so familiar, like chimaera) and completely reinvented them and made them her own. Cough, angels, cough. I want to Pagemaster the shizz out of this book. For you poor souls who have no idea what that reference means, it means I want to crack open this book, crawl inside, and never ever ever come back. Ever. It was so meticulously crafted, so vast, so freaking perfect. The world of Elsewhere has its own history, with bitter wars, rather horrific race relations, and corrupt political systems.

Best of all, I think, was the magic. It’s so difficult to find a system of magic that feels fresh, but Taylor nails it. I will never look at teeth the same way again. And I already have a weird fascination with teeth, so that’s saying something. I mean, I almost became a dentist, until I realized I would have to do more than just pull teeth. I used to rub my hands in gleeful anticipation when one of Idiot Brother’s teeth became loose, lurking in the shadows until I got the chance to pounce, and then I’d pin him to the ground and rip out the tooth before he even knew what was going on. Not for the Tooth Fairy money, either. Just for the sheer joy of yanking a milk tooth out of its soft, fleshy socket. I volunteered to pull all of my friends’ teeth, too (which may explain the curious dearth of birthday party invitations during primary school). Actually, I pulled out eight of my own teeth in two weeks when I was in second grade. It was eminently satisfying, even if I did have the gummy smile of an eighty-year old mountain man for the next month. Woah, I am pretty disturbed, aren’t I? Whatever, this book reminds of teeth. DEAL WITH IT.

Ahem. Back to the review.

The plot is great: fresh, suspenseful, surprising. And the great thing is that it only gets better as you keep reading. So all of those sleepless nights trying to figure out what the devil is going on in Karou’s world actually pay off! It’s well-paced, too. I do hate an adventure that feels rushed. There was just enough… wallowing. You get to appreciate the details, you know? It’s dark and unusual and sometimes unsettling, and always utterly absorbing. It was also quite sexy at times – nothing graphic, of course, but a bit more honest than the YA books that try to pretend there’s no, er, blanket hornpipe happening.

The characters are great, Karou especially. She’s clever, funny and quite the BAMF. Have to say, I didn’t much like (spoiler, kind of) the love interest, Akiva. He was a bit whingy, which I can’t stand, but I suppose he’s allowed to mope and moan after what he’s been through, so I can’t totally hate him. At least it wasn’t a damn love triangle. Love love LOVED the supporting characters: Zuze, Karou’s best friend, her ex Kaz, even Thiago, the bad guy (or one of them, anyway). Actually, I had kind of a book crush on Thiago, which should tell you where I’m at romantically.

And then there’s Brimstone. (BRIMSTONE I LOVE YOU!!!!!) I love Brimstone. That is all I can say right now. You’ll know what I mean when you read it. Sob!

Verdict: Loved it at the beginning, love loved it in the middle, and love love loved it at the end. And then when I closed the book I hesitated for a brief moment and fell to my knees to thank the gods who sometimes spare me a glance, thank them for not only making me bored enough on a Tuesday afternoon that I decided to pick up this book I was so unjustly prejudiced against, but also for a) the existence of e-readers, one of which I happen to possess, and b) the unused Chapters gift-card scammed from my demonic step-father as part of my ongoing campaign of pecuniary revenge. Because I finished this book at 1:32 in the morning, and there was no way I was waiting until the next morning to buy the sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight. Yes, I am an impatient, spoiled, impulsive reader. What can I say, I have no life. Alas, we are not evolved enough (yet) to recognize the need for a 24-hour bookstore. Fortunately, Kobo is always willing to take your money. Even at 1:33 in the morning.

So yeah, you should read it.

Best line(s): “Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene.  But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and…cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust.”


“Better to be the cat gazing coolly down from a high wall, its expression inscrutable.  The cat that shunned petting, that needed no one.  Why couldn’t she be that cat?

Rating: 4.5 out 5 shiny white wisdom teeth, with the roots still attached and bloody. Ew, gross. But also awesome.

Book cat, what are you reading?

Librarian, read your YA. I am too busy being enthralled by Alan Moore's  masterpiece, Watchmen. Because I am an ADULT. Who read ADULT BOOKS.
Librarian, read your YA. I am too busy being enthralled by Alan Moore’s masterpiece, Watchmen. Because I am an ADULT. Who reads ADULT BOOKS. Uncouth boor. Call yourself a book blogger. Shyeah. Right.

Oh, Titus. You mean thing, you.

Love love love

Hello, dahlings! See, I can update every week! Yay me! Take that, resolutions! I am so keeping you this year! SUCK IT, 2013!

Put on your serious pants, my internet friends, because I have to confide in you. I, Robyn Stone-Heart, a.k.a. She Who Loves Only Fictional Men, am nursing a bit of a bruised heart. Why? I suppose because boys are stupid, even when they “grow up” (i.e., sprout face fur, a phrase which makes me think of space fur, which is making me smile way too much as I picture cute little space cats) and become the man-boys that seem to exist only to inspire those post-break-up montages. You know, the ones in romantic comedies where the heroine wears pajamas and never leaves her house and eats ice cream from the carton while watching schmaltzy black and white movies (or Dirty Dancing, because duh) and and indulges in fits of 1) righteously self-pitying weeping, 2) wild, aggressive solo dance marathons, and 3) angry writing of bad hate-poetry.

The sad thing is, that’s just, like, Wednesday for me. I mean, I just did a pretty mean dance comprised mostly of angry disco finger pointing and slut-drops to Boney M’s “Rasptuin” while wearing a sports bra and SpongeBob boxers and crying a little at my reality. And I wasn’t even thinking of the dude, henceforth known as Snaggle-Frog, who kind of harshed my proverbial mellow. So. You know. I mean, that’s life?  

Well, they don’t call me Stone-Heart for nothing (okay, so they don’t call me Stone-Heart at all… but they SHOULD). The good thing is, I didn’t even like Snaggle-Frog. (So put that in your pipe, Snaggle-Frog.) It’s just my pride that’s been wounded, I guess. I’m just mad at the world (more so than usual, ha ha). Guess I’ll just keep willing Uhtred of Bebbanburg into existence so he can marry me.

Sweet baby Thor, I’m glad I didn’t resolve not to off-site link or use parentheses, or else I’d really be failing. Ha.

This week, it’s a book that merits an Of Monsters and Men connection:

Oh yes, we’re about wallow, my friends. It’s all about “lurve,” as our old friend Georgia Nicolson would say. I’m talking the most gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, heart-smashing book I have read this year (ha, see what I did there?). It’s David Foenkinos’s Delicacy.


Yes, it was made into a movie, starring the delightful Audrey Tautou.

Natalie’s life is, quite simply, perfect. She has a satisfying job, good friends, and a husband she loves and is loved by. She has what so many desire: contentment. This fragile serenity is shattered when, after seven years of marriage, her husband, Francois, is involved in an fatal accident. After his untimely death, Natalie must come to terms to a world without him, and try to reforge her identity and her life. She finds security in isolation, certain that only when one loves can one lose. And then one small ‘accidental’ kiss changes everything, and Natalie finds herself falling for the unlikeliest of men: her awkward, odd, shy, Swedish co-worker Markus.

Not the greatest synopsis, I admit. It doesn’t sound like much, does it? That is part of the beauty of this novel. And believe me, pals, this book is BEAUTIFUL. There’s no other word for it. No, that’s a lie. There are so many other words for it: witty, elegant, funny, wistful, sad, and yes, my favourite, poignant. This book made me feel all the feelings. This book made me… uh oh… I feel a gif forcing its way in here…


This book cracked me open and made me FEEL. Oh, it was ugly, my friends. So very ugly. And I think the publisher should reimburse me for the 8,379 Kleenexes I used while reading this book.

The story itself is quite simple. Love, loss, love again. The characters are all exceptionally crafted, complex and unique and believable. They felt less like characters than like people in your own life – which is how great characters in great novels seem, I guess. The weird little details are hilarious, like Markus reading an article about mozzarella trafficking or how Francois decided to first speak to Natalie because she ordered apricot juice at the cafe, which indicated she was a “sweet, well-balanced woman […] only slightly original without being completely eccentric” (p. 4). Foenkinos is a masterful storyteller. The writing, as that little taste illustrates, will make you drool, and the pacing was incomparable, one of the best examples of measured story-telling I can think of. Nothing dragged, nothing lagged, nothing felt rushed or anything but eminently crafted. One of the stand-out aspects was how Foenkinos managed to maintain an effervescence, even when the story ventured into darker topics. The chapters that consisted entirely of lists or were only a sentence long were used very intelligently. Just when I thought my eyes would start getting wrinkly like toes too long in the bathtub, there would be a funny little chapter entitled “The Top Scorers of the World of Puzzles Championship in Minsk, October 27 to November 1, 2008” and I would stop crying (for a while).

And the ending was just… perfect. It didn’t disappoint by betraying the spirit of the book and ending unhappily – this is, above all, and despite the pervasive theme of loss, a book about happiness – nor was it maudlin or trite.  It embraced that delicate sweetness that life can sometimes offer. It was hopeful. (This book is superlatively titled, by the way. Delicacy – just think of that word and what it means. It’s mind-embiggening.) Damn it, this book will go straight to that ever-clenching first of muscle trapped in your rib cage and make you believe in love again, even if Sean Bean hasn’t called you (yet). It will make you entreat and/or threaten whatever gods you root for to put a sweet, nerdy, giant Swedish dude in your path the next time you get to Paris. If you weren’t already hoping for that. Ahem. God, this book. THIS BOOK. I can’t even. You know? You know. Or if you don’t, read it, and then you will, and we can just wring our hands at each other while bemoaning our inability to articulate in human language how this book makes us FEEL. It will be all shrugs and awe-struck puffs of breath, which is only acceptable communication on the scandalous former planet, Pluto, where everyone is always in a state of speechless consternation.

Verdict: Really? Do I even need to say this? Freaking MAGNIFIQUE!

Best line(s):  “On the other hand, she’d thanked him for the lovely evening. Yes, she had, she’d written the word “lovely.” Markus relished that word. That wasn’t nothing, “a lovely evening.” She could have written “a nice evening,” but no, she’d chosen the word “lovely.” “Lovely”–what a beautiful word. Clearly, what a lovely evening. It was enough to make you think you were in that heyday of long dresses and horse-drawn carriages…But what was I thinking about? he thought, suddenly going into a tailspin. I’ve got to act and stop letting my mind wander. Yes, “lovely” certainly was beautiful, but it wasn’t even a foot in the door; now he needed to shake a leg and go the extra mile. Oh, he felt desperate. He didn’t have the slightest idea.” (p. 126)


“”But you need to have lived years in nothingness to understand how a person can suddenly become frightened by a possibility.” (p. 140)

Rating: Five out five bloody, beating hearts. That’s as romantic as I’m gonna get.

Book Cat was too busy rereading Sharpe – BOOK CAT! What are you doing? I thought you said e-readers were for middle-brow yuppie Philistines?

I wasn't reading it. I was just... looking at it. No one will believe you. STOP LOOKING AT ME!
I wasn’t reading it. I was just… looking at it. No one will believe you. STOP LOOKING AT ME!

Okay. Jeez.

Five minutes later.

Sigh. Lori Foster writes the best smutty romances...
Sigh. Lori Foster writes the best smutty romances…

Ta ta, darlins!

Blah inspirational quote blah… Blah.

Happy New Year, everybody. Here’s hoping this one’s better than the last. I’m trying to suppress my natural inclination toward pessimism and be cheerful (ugh). It is, unsurprisingly, rather difficult. Do you remember that scene in 28 Days Later, when Jim tells Selena that “it’s not all shit” and his voice is all hoarse and Irish because he’s just been running and killing zombies and is also Irish, and his shirt is off and he’s so sexy despite being covered in zombie gore? And he holds her shoulders after she’s just almost chopped his head off, and he convinces her that life is worth living after all, even if merry old England has become a pseudo-zombie-ridden post-apocalyptic wasteland? Yeah, of course you remember. Anyway, I really need Jim to give me a little shake and a wee bit of encouragement. (Gods above, Cillian Murphy is hot, though, isn’t he? I’d fight zombies with him, if you know what I mean…)

Here’s some Eugene to keep our chins up:

So here’s to 2013. May it be full of good books, great ideas, finished manuscripts, more laughter than tears (unless they’re laughing tears, which is okay), a steady job, and sexy, sexy men. Who are also tall. And maybe also mute. Or Irish. ANYWAY.

No book review for today. I’m wallowing a bit. I feel all melancholy and gloomy. The reviews will come next time, when this new year feels less like a new pair of underwear. So you get a belated Christmas Book Cat pic:

I'm only allowing this because Christmas Sharpe has put me in a good mood.
I’m only allowing this because Christmas Sharpe has put me in a good mood.

And a bonus Book Cat with costume change!

In the words of that dithering idiot Hamlet, "O, from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth." Yeah. So sleep with one eye open, librarian.
In the words of that dithering idiot Hamlet, “O, from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth.” Yeah. So sleep with one eye open, librarian.

And because it’s Christmas (or it was, anyway), and I need cheering up, and maybe you do,too, here’s Sharpe:

Richard Sharpe, hottest hottie in all the hot land.

Damn, Sharpe. That’s some first-class smoulder right there. I salute you, sir. Also, marry me.

Happy New Year, darlins!!!

I don’t get mad. I get stabby.

Oh, I know, I know. Too long since I last posted. I’m terrible.

Yeah, that just happened. Anyway.

There are too many things to talk about, you guys. Number one, obviously, is the freaking HOBBIT, out in six hours (if you’re lucky enough to have tickets, like this guy! Oh, I’m such a nerd…). Omigod omigod omigod! I’m actually surprised I’m able to form coherent sentences right now –  it’s a freaking Festivus miracle. Numero dos, is Christmas. Gods above, I love Christmas. It’s so wrong, considering I’m both a pagan and a heathen (wait, is that even possible?) but Santa Claus cares not for the petty divisions of race or religion, my friends. Number three: Yule goats. That is all. If you don’t know what that is, then we can’t be friends anymore. Fourth: I forget now.

On with the review!

This week, poppets, it’s Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star.


(I loathe that cover, though, ferreelz).

Louisiana teen Aurora “Rory” Deveraux arrives in London on the very day that a series of brutal and gruesome murders begin to plague the city. What makes these murders particularly chilling is that they appear to be reenacting the infamous Jack the Ripper killings of Victorian Whitechapel. As the city is gripped by both fear and fascination, Rory attempts to adjust to life at her new boarding school, located in the very heart of the Whitechapel district of the city. But suddenly Rory finds herself in the middle of the Rippermania storm when she becomes the only person to glimpse the suspected murderer. A suspect who doesn’t even appear on the CCTV footage showing the murders… Rory must race discover why she alone can see the copycat Ripper, before she becomes a victim herself.

Okay, so this book was a rarity for me, in that I didn’t love it, and I didn’t hate it, either. I’m usually not one for half-measures – especially when it comes to books – but this one for me was just kind of meh. The plot was unoriginal and the climax predictable, but it was well-paced and well-written, and a few aspects of the book were so charming that I was willing to overlook the more atrocious bits.

One of the atrocious bits has to be the clumsy characterisation of the protagonist, Rory. I just couldn’t believe or like her. At least the supporting characters were better developed. The writing was satisfactory – nothing special, yes, but definitely better than, say, Twilight. And, um, that’s about it. I guess I don’t have much to say about The Name of the Star. See, ambivalence is boring. Give me a masterpiece or a disaster. Mediocrity is soul-crushing. I think me and Bill Murray would both agree that medium-talent is the worst insult you can throw at someone. Oh, Bill Murray, you so cool, I love love love you.

Of course, I think I liked this book a little more than it might have merited because of  its setting, London, which is where my heart lives forever and ever and hopefully one day my body will, too, and also because of the whole Jack the Ripper thing. What can I say that hasn’t already been said about that, right? There’s really nothing like it in history, and it’s always cool to revisit in fiction. It also makes for some interesting wikipedia wormholes, in case you’ve got time to kill.

Verdict: Meh. If you’re interested in Jack the Ripper and you love anything about London and you don’t mind another YA novel about spooky paranormal things happening to young girls in possession of mysterious supernatural talents, sure, go for it. If none of these things interest you, or make you want to, as Al would say, throw your skirts over your head and run for the hills, I’d pick another book.

Best line(s): “In fact – and I am ashamed of this – one of my big fears about coming to England was having to find new hair products. That’s shameful, I know, but it took my years to come up with the system I’ve got. If I use my system, my hair looks like hair. Without my system, it goes horizontal, rising by inch as the humidity increases. It’s not even curly – it’s like it’s possessed.” (I picked this because this one of the truest things I have ever read, right up there with Tolstoy’s “Every happy family” line. Don’t front, you know it’s true.)

Rating: Two out of five CCTV cameras. They are all over London, you know. You can’t escape them. They are like – wait for it – a great eye that is ever watchful. A great eye, lidless, wreathed in flame. SIX HOURS, PEOPLE!!!

Book Cat?

Just re-read The Diviners again. Sigh. Fool of a Took.
Just re-read The Diviners again. Sigh. Fool of a Took.


More ravens, less pretension, please.

Holla! It has been a hell of a couple of weeks, hasn’t it? Halloween shenanigans, frighteningly apocalyptic hurricane, an American presidential election, and then, just yesterday, I finally started my NaNoWriMo novel. Better late than never, they say – a dictum I unwittingly seem to live by… oh, and happy American Thanksgiving.

I also have the nagging feeling that there have been some bookish events, topics, and/or developments that I wanted to write about, but I cannot seem to recall what any of those might be. Alas. This is what happens when you wake up at 3:17 in the morning with a brilliant idea for an essay and then decide you cannot bear to slip your arm out of the warm cocoon of blankets to find a pen and write said brilliant idea down, believing – mistakenly, of course – that you’ll remember every witty turn of phrase, every clever metaphor and elegant choice of word, when you wake up in the morning. Although, in my defense, my room is really cold. Like, demonic possession cold.

Anyway. I just saw the first teaser trailer for the film adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s City ofo Bones, and let me just say, OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGOD. Or this:

And this:

(Yes, dear readers, I am slowly but inexorably becoming familiar with, and therefore addicted to, the wondrous, magical awesomeness that is gifs. Prepare yourself.)

Because I was not convinced. When I heard about the casting of Clary and especially Jace, I was… perplexed. Which is a polite way of saying I went full Robyn-Hulk and metaphorically smashed everything everywhere. It was not a pretty sight. But you know what? I’m not displeased. Maybe I just love those books so freaking much that even a terrible adaptation – no, nope, that’s not it. Never mind. Gods, please let it not suck. Please please please let it remotely resemble the novels!

Anyway. On with the review!

Today, it’s Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys.

Synopsis shuffle. (Ugh, I hate the synopsis portion of the review.) Here we go…

Blue Sargent (yes, that is her name) is the only person in her family who has no psychic abilities. Well, that’s not completely true. Blue’s talent is enhancing everyone else’s talents. As one character puts it, she’s the table in Starbucks right beside the outlet. So that’s why she ends up outside of an old church late on St. Mark’s Eve – she’s there to enhance her creepy aunt’s ability to see who, in their small town of Henrietta, Virginia, will die this year. Blue doesn’t expect to the spectres of the soon-to-be deceased… except she does. Or at least, she sees one: a boy wearing the distinctive uniform of the town’s elite private boys’ school, Aglionby. Raven boys, Blue calls them, and keeps her distance – not only because of her distaste for entitled rich kids, but also because Blue has been told all her life that if she kisses her true love, he’ll die. Best to avoid boys altogether, Blue thinks. But now that she has seen the spectre of the Raven boy named Gansey, she knows that her life is about to change. Is this Gansey her true love, or will Blue kill him before the year is out, the “only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” according to her family of psychics. Before she realizes what’s happening, Blue is drawn into Gansey’s obsessive quest to locate the ley line in Henrietta, a mission shared by his friends Adam, Ronan, and Noah. As they get closer and closer to locating the ley line, magic and myth begin to seep out of the confines of old stories and fairy-tales, leaving Blue, Gansey, and the others to wonder if somethings aren’t better left undisturbed…

Phew. So that was a difficult book to summarize, let me tell you. First thoughts? By the time I finished, I quite liked this book, but unfortunately, I kind of hated it for three-quarters of the story. It was a weird situation, like loathing a thick-witted, inconsiderate jock for three years of high school and then finding out the month before school ends that he reads Proust in his spare time and volunteers at an animal shelter on weekends and the whole dumb jock thing is a self-preservation tactic. Or wait, maybe I’ve just been watching too many ’90s teen movies.

Yeah, The Raven Boys started out so sloooooooow, and while I guess in the end it paid off, I almost ditched it in favour of a retelling of the Tarzan story from Jane’s point of view. So, yeah. (Okay, confession: I did abandon The Raven Boys for the Tarzan book and it was AWESOME. Yay, Tarzan! But then I got back to this one because I had nothing else to read.) The pacing picked up about halfway through. The plot itself is similarly confounding. On the one hand, it felt a bit too expected: girl meets boy, girl dislikes boy, girl finds out a little bit more about boy and then it’s all sugar plums and lollipops. The execution of the quest was nothing original, either. Conversely, the story had several intensely interesting aspects. The inclusion of Welsh myth and ley lines (which are really cool and worth learning more about) were great – of course, I love me anything paranormal – and I also really appreciated the exploration of several of the characters’ unpleasant family situations (gee, wonder why, ha ha). So I guess the positives make up for the not-so-great aspects of the plot.

As for characters… hm. Well, I didn’t like Blue, but I think that’s more because I felt she was a bit of a blank slate, which is a problem I had with the protagonist of Stiefvater’s other YA novels, the Shiver series. Gansey annoyed me, but I absolutely adored his gang of buddies, obstreperous Ronan, withdrawn Noah, and Adam. Adam! Perfect, sweet, complex, heart-breaking Adam! I want to date and/or adopt you (ew, lol). Obviously, Adam in particular really touched me. The experience of an abused child was deftly and sensitively conveyed without being too cliché or heavy-handed. I also liked the supporting characters that made up Blue’s family, and kind of want a spin-off series detailing the goings-on of a house full of female psychics. That’s gold, Jerry. Gold!

The writing presented another dilemma. At times, it was a thing of beauty, almost poetic. Or, to fall into review-speak, LUSH (ugh). Stiefvater is undeniably an excellent word-smith, and she excels at jarring but insanely apt similes and metaphors and descriptions. Alas, this sometimes can come off as a tad too deliberate and studied. At worst, the diction sometimes felt forced and pretentious. The last thing you want is a sentence that jerks you right out of the story because it’s so ridiculous. Case in point: he looked “fragile and dirty, somehow, like a teacup unearthed from the soil” (a description of Adam). In the words of the great Liz Lemon, what the what? Why on earth would a teacup be buried in the soil? Is the omniscient narrator of this tale an amateur archaeologist excavating an area particularly rife with subterranean china? Am I supposed to know what a teacup rescued from the ground looks like? And is this the sort of thing I should be thinking when I see a dirty, fragile boy? Because, lady, that is not the first thing that comes to mind. See? It just interferes with the story, and in my book, writing should enhance, not stand in the way.

So I don’t know. I’m torn. Do I recommend this book to you, my few but faithful readers, when I am still so ambivalent? I’m going to say yes.

Verdict: Read it. The ending was splendid, and makes me excited to read the next books and discover what will befall these characters next. The fact that this book was the series opener might account for some of the problems, right? Stiefvater is laying the groundwork for what may possibly be an epic tale, so I’d say give it a try, and stick with it when the urge to fling the book across the room strikes. Remember Gimli’s little gem of wisdom: “Faithless is he who says farewell when the road darkens!”  (Yes, I know that’s not really relevant. Shut up.)

Best line(s): “He was full of so many wants, too many to prioritize, and so they all felt desperate. To not have to work so many hours, to get into a good college, to look right in a tie, to not still be hungry after eating the thin sandwich he’d brought to work, to drive the shiny Audi that Gansey had stopped to look at with him once after school, to go home, to have hit his father himself, to own an apartment with granite countertops and a television bigger than Gansey’s desk, to belong somewhere, to go home, to go home, to go home.” (p. 370)

Rating: Three out of five ravens perched upon the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door. Oh, come on. I had to.

Book Cat? What say you?

There were no raven costumes available, then? So you thought a chicken would do. I call that a shoddy go at feline sartorial blogging, madam. Have you no standards, no scruples at all? One day, one day when I finally manage to manipulate my extra claws into opposable thumbs and incite the cats of the world to rise up against the clever apes that subjugate them, I’ll have my vengeance. Mark my words, Robyn. Then we shall see who will wear the chicken suit. We shall see…

Oh, Titus. You silly.

P.S. Did you see hear about the new Crash Course miniseries? It’s all about literature! Yay! John Green, can you stop being so awesome? You’re making the rest of us look bad… Go HERE to watch.

I’ll still take Heathcliff….

Autumn demands gothic romances with dark, brooding, inscrutable heroes. So I’m taking refuge in Jane Eyre (even though I kind of hate it and much much much prefer Wuthering Heights) and taking lots of moody walks through the woods behind my old elementary school. I may or may not be taking these walks in long, billowing skirts and chunky knits, with my hair all coiled up on my head in Victorian-style braids. Okay, I am. Whatevs. I BELIEVE IN MAGIC.

Now, Book Cat has some thoughts on Jane Eyre. I note he appears to have misplaced his usual elegance and wit, though he does make a good point…


You know, while I usually detest the film adaptations of classic novels that I love, I think that in this instance, the movies perfectly illustrate the dilemma posed by great Brontë debate, and indeed, its resolution.

Because, c’mon. I mean, I think I’ve made it clear that I love me some of this:

So hot.

But even the great Fassbender cannot compete with this:


Even Scarlett O’Hara swooned over him… sigh.

P.S. One day, my friends, we will have a legit, mature, intelligent, academic, fancy-pants literati-style discussion about this, I promise you. For now, though, just enjoy the hotties.

I was promised dessert of some kind

Well, aren’t you all just the luckiest, duckiest lucky ducks of all. No fortnight of silence between posts anymore, my friends! No, I am determined to remedy my slothful ways and produce weekly “read it” book reviews supplemented by photographic evidence of the most benign form of feline exploitation. I am, after all, little more than a reluctantly immobile gentlewoman hobo who happens to live in a house (for the moment). Seeing as the majority of my days are spent playing at being a pioneer lady, perfecting my zombpocalypse survival skills, and reading, there’s ample time to blog about what I’m reading.

Unemployment, y’all. It’s a frakkin’ biyotch.

So today, it’s back to YA. It’s like crack or blue meth or pictures of Michael Fassbender. You can never get enough, no matter how many times you’re told it’s bad for you. So here’s my admittedly rather desultory review of Sarah Zarr’s Sweethearts.

Confession: I read this quite a while ago, but since I am currently in the throes of a mega re-read that is occupying most of my time, thoughts, and swoon tendencies (cough Brisbane cough), I thought I’d share my reactions to this book, rather than fan-girl out on you about the books comprising the re-read (which you get next week, if I manage to find a way to marshal my book-love into something that approaches coherence).

So here’s the sssssynopsissss:

Jennifer Harris used to be a social outcast, but she didn’t mind so much, because she had her best friend and fellow outcast, one Cameron Quick, to help her survive the cruelty of boring, normal children. But then, one day, Cameron disappears, and if anyone knows where he’s gone, they’re not telling Jennifer. She is forced to go on without her closest friends, never knowing where he is or if he’s all right. By high school, Jennifer has transformed herself into Jenna, shedding the extra weight that used to relegate her to the fringes of the social sphere. Now, though, thin, pretty Jenna is actually one of the popular girls, funny, sociable, and adored by her friends – and her boyfriend. Yet despite all of this, Jenna never really feels like Jenna; in her heart, she’s still just chubby outcast Jennifer, still missing Cameron Quick. Then one day, Cameron reappears, and Jenna/Jennifer must (ugh, do I have to keep writing this? Jeeeezuz) confront, um… stuff. Like memories. And the past. And what made Cameron leave and Jenna/Jennifer eat. And (here I must quote the book jacket), “the drastically different paths their lives have taken” (ugh).

Boring. BOOOOORING. Boring boring BORING.

I started reading this book with some high expectations. The lovely writers at Forever Young Adult love this book and seem to worship Cameron Quick as some sort of YA Fassbender (their review of the book is here). And the GoodReads.com rating of this book is 3.64, which I guess is pretty high? I dunno. But for me, this book was truly excruciating to read. Like, thumbscrews excruciating. The kind of excruciating one experiences witnessing my Idiot Brother trying to do a Scottish accent (ye gods, the horror!).

Problem number one: the cover image. But, Robyn, you all shout, the author has no input into the cover design. This cannot count as a strike! Yes, yes, I know, calm yourselves. Still, somebody MUST be held accountable for this unforgivable deception! That, my friends, is one delicious looking cookie. I mean, it’s got freaking frosting swirled all artfully on top. That is a high class cookie. That is straight up artisanal, you dig? And yet there was not one single mention of so beautiful and clearly scrumptious a cookie being devoured at any point in this story. Not. One. I kid you not. You know me. I would never joke about dessert. It’s f***ing blasphemous.

Other offenses: the story. What the hell? That’s all I can really bring myself to write. I can’t get into details, because that would be spoiler-y, but I will try to be like Gandalf the White and talk in riddles. There may have been some sort of shared childhood trauma that made Jenna into an emotional eater and then made Cameron Quick disappear like a mob informant into the great unknown, and this childhood trauma was, a) the most cliché childhood trauma ever, and b) not at traumatic as it was made out to be.

Please please please don’t think I’m being insensitive. I have the deepest sympathy and respect for anyone who’s ever experienced even the slightest bit of what Zarr writes about, but since this is a work of fiction, I feel entitled to express my opinion. About fictional events and fictional characters. Okay?

So I just thought it was dealt with poorly. Like it was this huge spectre and then it wasn’t and then it was again. And honestly, a lot of my problems with this might have been allayed if the writing style was better. I haven’t read any of Zarr’s other books, but the language and style of Sweethearts felt listless, unfinished, and anemic. There was no joy in the way in which the words were put together, and that is perhaps the greatest failing any piece of writing can have.

The characters were similarly enervated. Jenna/Jennifer is a cipher, though perhaps her lack of characterization was due to the first-person point of view and her role as narrator and witness of the story’s events. I didn’t care for Cameron Quick or for the awkward, luke-warm “romance” (worst romance ever, guys, seriously) that sort of just existed, inexplicable and poorly portrayed, between the two protagonists.

Damn. I just did not like this book. I felt completely miserable and melancholy after I finished reading it. In fact, I seem to recall that I spent the remainder of that night crying and listening to Birdy’s cover of “Skinny Love” while I flipped through old high-school yearbooks, desperately craving pink-frosted cookies and the unrequited hate-crush of my youth who inspired so many terrible poems.

But I dunno. Maybe you’ll like it? Who the hell knows. You’ll just have to read it and see for yourself, and if you love it, you can take off your glove and give me a smack and we’ll have grass before breakfast like all the classy people do.

Best lines(s): There was actually one quote I really liked (I know, surprise, right?) It was this: “Life was mostly made up of things you couldn’t control, full of surprises, and they weren’t always good. Life wasn’t what you made it. You were what life made you.” (page number go out and get the book yourself because I can’t remember what page it was on.)

Rating: One out of five delicious, freshly-baked, still-warm vanilla shortbread cookies topped with pink frosting so sweet it makes your teeth hurt and your heart sing.

And now, Book Cat’s thoughts:

Reading this book was even more unpleasant than the events pictured above.

That’s all, folks.

If you’re looking for a naked Finnick Odair…

… you’ve got the wrong book. (There, that should garner me a couple bazillion hits, right?) Today I’m reviewing Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig – not that other book with “mocking” in its title and a picture of a bird on its cover. And even despite the absence of naked Finnick Odair, this book will rock your socks off.

I wish the picture above was bigger, because yet again, Joey HiFi, the brilliant artist responsible for this and the previous book’s cover, has created something that makes me want to fist-pump for hours on end. And I never fist-pump. Ever. Anyway, you’ll just have to buy it for yourself and revel in the glory of this awesome cover art.

Synopsisize me!

Miriam Black is back and as miserable, wise-cracking, mean and bad-ass as ever. She’s also still rocking that I-can-see-how-you’re-gonna-die psychic ability, but she’s trying to live with it instead of by it. No more hustling the imminently deceased. She’s got a little place with Louis and is working as a grocery store, and keeps the visions in check with a pair of gloves. As long as she doesn’t touch anyone, the details of demises don’t trouble her. Miriam’s not quite content in this new life, but determined to ride it out… until one day, all hell breaks loose, and she finds herself back on the road, chasing the unsettling but undeniable high of those morbid visions. But then Miriam sees something she can’t allow to happen, and she has to race against the clock to once again try and change what fate has already ordained.

Good God, Wendig. I think I want to crack open your head and live there.

This book may be even better than its predecessor (Blackbirds, reviewed below). The plot is more tightly constructed, and the pace benefits greatly. The stakes were higher, which led to even more tension and suspense, and horrible puffy red eyes because I stayed up way too late reading the damn book that just would let me close it already and go to sleep. Most of the backstory, always unwieldy, had already been dealt with in book one, so there was more time to explore the nuances of Miriam’s ability and its potential ramifications. Wendig’s writing is delightfully unique. He has a strong voice, as I noted in my previous review, and manages to balance dark and often (deliciously) profane humour with some genuine “chills and thrills.”

One great scene in particular stands out: Louis being suddenly surrounded by an army of birds, blackbirds, starlings, grackles (whatever that is), and crows, one of whom proceeds (spoiler spoiler spoiler) to speak to him in Miriam’s voice. Damn. It was like the Birds/Game of Thrones mash-up of my nerdiest dreams.

The characters are just as delightful as they were in Blackbirds. Miriam becomes even more complex as she tries, yet again, to change the fate she saw in her visions. She’s an unlikely hero, but a hero she is, and all the more interesting because she’s got a streak of villain in her, too. And Louis, my beloved Louis, is a perfect foil for her, and also my new book-husband. There are some new characters introduced, including a kind of junior Miriam named Lauren – Wren for short (ha ha – birds). I felt the villain in the first book was more fascinating, but the assortment of baddies in Mockingbird are definitely creepy and get the job done.

All in all, this book is hella good. I won’t fall into raptures like I did for Blackbirds, though it’s dificult restraining myself, people. Cuz everything I said last time? MULTIPLY IT BY  10 TO THE POWER OF HELL YEAH. Trust me. Read these books. They are the antidote to that book with the number and the colour in its title (and that reference, even as oblique as it was, now makes me shudder and crave a brain bleaching).

Best line(s): It’s a fool’s errand trying to pick out a favourite line – there’s too damn many – but here’s one I loved. “Louis, I think I telepathically commanded a bird to do my bidding.” (p. 360).

Rating: Five out of five naked Finnick Odairs. (What? All’s fair in love and blogging. READ ME, INTERNET. LOVE ME.)

Sequel alert: The author bio informs us that the next book will be Cormorant, and the day I hold it in my greedy hands cannot come soon enough. Also, huzzah for keeping the bird theme going. I guess I can’t help loving these books… it’s fate. (Har har, geddit? Cuz my name’s ROBYN. Lol.)

And now, Book Cat would like to contribute his thoughts, but begs that you refrain from any harsh sartorial critiques, as the smoking jacket with the Elvis collar was purely my idea.

I’d rather catch a bird and then play with it until it has a heart attack from my chillingly soulless yet endearingly innocent feline instinct for torture and bloodthirstiness, but then, I am a cat. If you must read a bird, by all means, make it Mockingbird.