2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pyjamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

cat's pyjamasFormat: e-book galley

Length: 272 pages

Publisher: Crown

Source: TLC Book Tours / NetGalley

From the publisher:

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, precocious nine-year-old and an aspiring jazz singer. As she mourns the recent death of her mother, she doesn’t realize that on Christmas Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day—and night—of her life. After bravely facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club The Cat’s Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her on-stage debut. On the same day, her fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who’s just moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high school crush, afraid to hope that sparks might fly again. And across town at The Cat’s Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever, unless someone can find a way to quickly raise the $30,000 that would save it.

As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night.

Here’s what I thought:

The world of 2. A.M. at The Cat’s Pyjamas in populated by a host of interesting, quirky characters whose actions and interactions over the course of one evening make up the storyline for this fresh new novel. The main characters–Madeleine, Sarina, and Lorca–are memorable enough, but the many minor characters, while well-drawn, start to blur together by their sheer numbers. I found myself getting confused at several points while reading as I tried to keep them all straight.

Bertino’s writing zips along, and as such the novel is a quick read. I enjoyed the story overall, as it reminded me of the work of Maria Semple, one of my favorite writers. Unlike Semple’s writing, though, I felt that this book was lacking in emotional depth. The character of Madeleine, in particular, was so cynical and cold as to be unbelievable. As the mother of two daughters, I have never encountered a nine-year-old who acted remotely like her.

I would recommend this book to readers looking for a snappy, original read, but not to those looking for a more meaningful reading experience.

About the author:

marie-helene bertinoMarie-Helene Bertino’s debut novel 2 AM AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS will be published by Crown in August, 2014. Her collection of short stories SAFE AS HOUSES received The 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Award and the Pushcart Prize and was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award and The Story Prize. She hails from Philadelphia and lives in Brooklyn. She was an Emerging Writer Fellow at NYC’s Center for Fiction and teaches at NYU, Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, The Center for Fiction, and One Story’s Emerging Writer’s Workshop, where she was the Associate Editor for 6 years. She has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and Hedgebrook and currently works as a biographer of people with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

For more information, visit: www.mariehelenebertino.com

Thanks so much to TLC Book Tours and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book and giving me a chance to share my review.

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Room by Emma Donaghue

roomFormat: e-book

Length: 342 pages

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Source: personal library

From the publisher:

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Here’s what I thought:

I’d heard a lot about this book over the past few years, and having LOVED Donoghue’s Slammerkin I was eager to read this one, too. This book was also on my 2014 TBR Pile Challenge list.

I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Donoghue’s previous work. The character of Jack, who narrates the novel, is a five-year-old boy. His narrative voice can be a bit grating, especially as he doesn’t speak like a normal child (having grown up in captivity with no other example than his mother and the television).

I never really warmed to either Jack or the mother, which probably makes me sound very cold-hearted and horrible, but there it is. I was glad with the way things turned out for them and thought that the resolution of the novel was very satisfying, but I just never felt that connection to them that I generally need to feel towards a book’s characters to really enjoy it.

Overall, the book was well-written and the plot interesting. I liked it, but I don’t think it will stay with me in the long-term.

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Booking Through Thursday: Bookcases 2

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme about books and reading.

I’ve always considered that my bookcases give a pretty fair representation of me as a person—they show my interests, what kind of things I like, that I have a curious mind, the kinds of things I study … all that. But with the increase of e-books, that litmus test of personality is going by the wayside. Unless someone takes my Kindle and browses through it, there isn’t an immediate, visible display of my interests … am I the only one who finds that kind of sad? Going forward, about the most we’ll be able to tell about someone is that they OWN an e-book reader … but no real idea of what they actually read. I’m going to miss that.

This is a follow-up to last week’s question, and it’s definitely something that I’ve thought about, particularly at the moment as I’m going through the process of packing up my library of books. I’ve realized that I only want to hang on to physical books that I either have a sentimental connection to or which I know I’ll read again–for one time books, it just doesn’t make sense to me to keep them.  For that reason, in many ways I think my bookcases are less of an “immediate, visible display of my interests” than a real glimpse into what’s important to me. The fact is that I’ll read almost anything once, but to keep a physical book it has to matter to me.

What about you?

Booking Through Thursday: Bookcases

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme about books and reading.

When you visit a friend’s house, do you find time to browse their bookcases? Does it shock you if they don’t have one?

I love this question because I always wonder what people think when they come to my house. We have lots of prominent bookshelves and just about every kind of book under the sun. Between my love for both genre and literary fiction to my husband’s fantasy series and Dragonball Z collection, we must look very schizophrenic! We just love books, period, as a family.

When I’m at someone’s house I definitely check out the bookshelves, but not in a judgemental way. Mostly I’m looking to see if there’s something I want to borrow! :)

What about you–are you a bookcase browser?

July Wrap-Up

Hello *waves wildly*! I promise I’m still here, in body if not in spirit. We just got back from a whirlwind trip to Atlanta to try to find a house to rent and get some preliminary business done. It’s a frustrating and stressful time, but I know we will get through this and It Will All Work Out. That’s my mantra these days.

Despite all that other stuff, I’m reading. I finished six books during the month of July:

  1. Three books from the Spymaster series by Joanna Bourne. Schmaltzy schmaltz, but well-written. I loved the first half of My Lord and Spymaster, in particular.
  2. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I’m still not sure what I think about this book. I liked the idea behind it, then it went a bit Twilight-y, then it got really far out by the end. I liked it enough to have the second cued up on my kindle, so I guess that says something.
  3. All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld. I think I wanted to like this book more than I actually did, and my anticipation of it was probably a bad thing because I ended up feeling disappointed. Very atmospheric but ultimately anti-climactic.
  4. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Just as much fun as everyone says. Not a perfect book, but it was the perfect choice to read on my stressful non-vacation to the U.S.

I’m in the middle of lots of different stuff. I read up to chapter 13 for the first week of the East of Eden read along but I haven’t picked it back up since. I found it highly readable but depressing as heck, so I’m not sure I will continue. I need to finish up three other books that I’ve started, including The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, which I’m finding quirky but good.

I hope your July was a good one, and hopefully by the time I do another one of these updates, we will be settling into our new home in Atlanta. Fingers crossed!

 

High Summer Readathon Starting Line

high summer ratTechnically, the readathon started yesterday, but I’m just getting around to posting about it. Here’s what I’m hoping to get through while I’m home on vacation this week:

- finish The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne  DONE!

- finish More Than This by Patrick Ness

- read through Chapter 13 of East of Eden by John Steinbeck: Currently on Ch. 6 and it’s going well (for me, not for Adam…)

- start 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pyjamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

I would love to be able to finish Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as well, but it will depend on when I can check it back out from the library. And as we’re leaving for the U. S. on Sunday, there will be one or two things to get done beside reading this week as well!

Happy readathon to all who are participating, and enjoy your reading week regardless–

UPDATE: I’m not sure if I’ll have another chance to post before the end of the readathon as we’re leaving for the U.S. on Sunday, so I’m updating this post with the progress I’ve made so far.

Readalongs and Readathons

Hello, all! I think it says something about my current state of mind that when I feel like blogging at the moment, it’s mostly just to chat. I don’t have anything particularly profound to say about books or the state of the world or anything other than my own naval. So be it–I may need to keep my focus inward for the next little while, and that feels okay.

I’m getting ready to participate in a couple of reading/blogging events that I thought I should mention. Besides Paris in July which is going on right now (I haven’t posted anything yet, but that should change this week), I’ve decided to participate in the Estella Society’s readalong of East of Eden by John Steinbeck, which officially starts on the 21st.  The only Steinbeck I’ve read is The Red Pony, which scarred me for life at the tender age of 12. Hopefully I’m mature enough to handle this one (ahem).

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Finally, I’m going to join in the High Summer Readathon from July 21st – 27th, as I will actually be home from work that week and should have some time to read. I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to read for it, but probably a combination of my reading for the other two events and some fun, spur-of-the-moment stuff.

high summer rat

But enough about me. How are you? :) Are you enjoying your summer? Doing anything new and exciting? Reading anything so fabulous that you just have to tell the world all about it?