Publisher: Melville House

Book Review – Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss

March 12, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 3 Comments

I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – Cat Out of Hell by Lynne TrussCat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss
Published by Melville House on March 3rd 2015
Pages: 256
Genres: Funny-ha-ha, Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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one-half-stars

Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Lynne Truss (Eats, Shoots & Leaves) is back with a mesmerizing and hilarious tale of cats and murder

For people who both love and hate cats comes the tale of Alec Charlesworth, a librarian who finds himself suddenly alone: he’s lost his job, his beloved wife has just died. Overcome by grief, he searches for clues about her disappearance in a file of interviews between a man called “Wiggy” and a cat, Roger. Who speaks to him.

It takes a while for Alec to realize he’s not gone mad from grief, that the cat is actually speaking to Wiggy… and that much of what we fear about cats is true. They do think they’re smarter than humans, for one thing. And, well, it seems they are! What’s more, they do have nine lives. Or at least this one does – Roger’s older than Methuselah, and his unblinking stare comes from the fact that he’s seen it all.

And he’s got a tale to tell, a tale of shocking local history and dark forces that may link not only the death of Alec’s wife, but also several other local deaths. But will the cat help Alec, or is he one of the dark forces?

In the deft and comedic hands of mega-bestseller Lynne Truss, the story is as entertaining as it is addictive” (The Sunday Telegraph) – an increasingly suspenseful and often hysterically funny adventure that will please cat lovers and haters alike. And afterwards, as one critic noted, “You may never look at a cat in quite the same way again” (The Daily Mail).

‘All of this story, remember, is based on the completely unacceptable and ludicrous premise of an evil talking cat called Roger that traveled romantically in the footsteps of Lord Byron in the 1930s and now solves cryptic crosswords torn out daily from the Telegraph.’

I’m all about dark humor (and if we’re being completely honest, anything involving cats) so when I read numerous reviews describing this novel as such, I jumped at the chance to read it. Sad to say, the ‘humor’ of this completely escaped me. Remember that horrible cheese-fest of a movie Cats & Dogs about a top secret war going on between, well, Cats & Dogs? The cats were all evil bastards trying to take over the world and man’s best friend was trying to foil their plans. So basically, just replace dogs with humans and you’ve got the plot of this story.

Our narrator, Alec, is a librarian who is mourning the sudden loss of his wife, Mary. Alec immerses himself in a collection of documents consisting of audio transcripts, e-mails, and photographs describing the story of a man called “Wiggy” who has just lost his sister. His story also includes the tale of a talking cat named Roger, a member of a satanic cult of immortal cats with a blood feud against humans. Roger begins to tell his life story to Wiggy, à la Interview with the Vampire.

‘”Why are cats so pissed off all the time? They get all the best seats in the house, they have food and warmth and affection. Everything is on their terms, not ours. They come and go as they please. Why aren’t they permanently ecstatic?” Well, now it’s explained. It’s because they’re conscious of having lost their ability to do serious evil, and they feel bloody humiliated.’

The included pop culture references with Roger having a voice like Vincent Price and is described as the feline equivalent of Stephen Fry (whatever that’s supposed to mean) and Alec’s dog Watson having a voice exactly like Daniel Craig, took this story even further into ridiculous territory. The fast-paced narrative, I had assumed was done in an attempt to recreate the sense of panic the characters were dealing with, came off as lazy and sloppy rather than thrilling and frenetic. But then we get to the end and we’re even told:

‘So that’s nearly the end, and I’d like to finish my account with an apology. Reading it all back, I realise that at times I have been a tad flippant in the way I have written this, and I have also told the story with what appears to be a lamentable lack of narrative organisation.’

So basically the author realized what a hot mess she just wrote and instead of going back and fixing it had her character apologize like it’s his fault. Well, whoever you want to blame, I still can’t accept it.

Maybe I took it all too seriously. Maybe I wouldn’t have if I would have known it was like LOLCats in novel form. And maybe there’s some hidden allegory I was supposed to uncover that would have allowed me the ‘a-ha!’ moment where it all makes sense. Unfortunately, that moment never came.

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Book Review – The Train by Georges Simenon

July 29, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 1 Comment

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – The Train by Georges SimenonThe Train by Georges Simenon
Published by Melville House on July 12, 2011
Pages: 162
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
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two-half-stars

Against all expectations Marcel Féron has made a “normal” life in a bucolic French suburb in the Ardennes. But on May 10, 1940, as Nazi tanks approach, this timid, happy man must abandon his home and confront the “Fate” that he has secretly awaited. Separated from his pregnant wife and young daughter in the chaos of flight, he joins a freight car of refugees hurtling southward ahead of the pursuing invaders. There, he meets Anna, a sad-looking, dark- haired girl, whose accent is “neither Belgian nor German,” and who “seemed foreign to everything around her.” As the mystery of Anna’s identity is gradually revealed, Marcel leaps from the heights of an exhilarating freedom to the depths of a terrifying responsibility—one that will lead him to a blood-chilling choice.

When it first appeared in English in 1964, British novelist and critic Brigid Brophy declared The Train to be “the novel his admirers had been expecting all along from Simenon.” Until The Train, she wrote, the dazzlingly prolific novelist had been “a master without a masterpiece.”

The Train is a poignant novel about Marcel Feron and his pregnant wife and young daughter living the “normal” life he had always hoped for in the French suburb Ardennes. On May 10, 1940 they woke up to find that the Nazi’s were coming and they were being forced into leaving behind all that they held dear. Marcel packs his family up and they get on the train meant to take them away from the danger. Throughout the train ride Marcel relives the day when him and his wife first met, their first train ride together, and all that she represented.

“For me, she was not just a woman; but the symbol of a normal regular life.”

The morning of May 10, 1940 did not result in panic for Marcel, rather he had always felt that this was bound to happen, that he would be forced to leave behind everything, and that he was going to confront the “Fate” that he has been secretly awaiting for years. When he becomes separated from his wife and child he finds himself surrounded by strangers but as the train travels further away from home their faces start to become familiar to him; and that’s when he meets Anna.

The panic and urgency of everyone leaving their homes and being separated from their family’s causes them to change and feel ‘outside ordinary life and its conventions.’ The affair he ends up having with Anna becomes the sole focus of the book and it seemed at first to be quite strange and peculiar, but it transpired as a result of the shock from leaving their ordinary lives behind. It may not have been acceptable under normal circumstances, but the circumstances were far from normal. He continues searching for his family but stays with Anna till the very end. It was quite sad when the two finally parted ways.

“I hope you’ll be happy, Marcel. I’ve been happy with you.”

The author’s writing style felt choppy and stilted. I’m not sure if this was in fact due to the author’s writing style or if it was simply because of the translation between languages. Overall, this was an interesting reflection of WWII but also of the human response to traumatic situations and the bonds that we create with individuals out of the instinctual need to grasp at life.

“For the first time in my life I had said ‘I love you’ like that, from the depths of my heart. Perhaps it wasn’t she that I loved, but life?”

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