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

Book Review

 


2 A.M. at The Cat's PajamasBook Genre: Contemporary Fiction, audiobook

Book Series: N/A

Released: 8/5/14 by Crown

Pages: 272 Price: $25.00 Hardcover

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Source: I borrowed this audiobook from my library.

 

 

Book Synopsis:

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. A vivacious, charming and moving debut, 2 Am At The Cat’s Pajamas will capture your heart and have you laughing out loud.

My Review:

This was an interesting little story.  Not quite sure what I thought of it.  It was an audiobook selection for me and those tend to be books I wouldn’t normally read due to limited selection through the library system. So I’m sitting here wondering how to review this story…

It was sweet and clever and sad and funny all at different parts.  It had me laughing at one moment and feeling awkward the next.  The story was difficult to follow at times thanks to flashbacks into the character’s past.  We follow Madeleine through much of the story but also delve into the history of supporting characters.

I like the idea of following a set of character’s over the span of a day and watch how their lives cross and intertwine but at times this one got to be a bit confusing as we would move back and forth in time throughout the day depending on who we were dealing with at the moment.  I think it might have been less confusing if I had been reading it instead of listening because I sometimes lose focus on the story as I concentrate on whatever chore I am working on.

Basically, it is a sweet story that I don’t regret listening to but never got terribly excited about. But then it isn’t a typical read for me.  If you are big into contemporary fiction revolving around music then this one will probably be one you enjoy.  If you like smart-ass characters then you might also enjoy this story.  That was the part that I enjoyed the most.

My Rating:3 Stars

Bottomland by Michelle Hoover

Book Review

 


BottomlandBook Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Book Series: N/A

Released: 3/1/16 by Grove Press

Pages: 336  Price:$16.oo paperback

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Source: I borrowed this book from my library.

 

 

Book Synopsis:

At once intimate and sweeping, Bottomland—the anticipated second novel from Michelle Hoover—follows the Hess family in the years after World War I as they attempt to rid themselves of the Anti-German sentiment that left a stain on their name. But when the youngest two daughters vanish in the middle of the night, the family must piece together what happened while struggling to maintain their life on the unforgiving Iowa plains.

In the weeks after Esther and Myrle’s disappearance, their siblings desperately search for the sisters, combing the stark farmlands, their neighbors’ houses, and the unfamiliar world of far-off Chicago. Have the girls run away to another farm? Have they gone to the city to seek a new life? Or were they abducted? Ostracized, misunderstood, and increasingly isolated in their tightly-knit small town in the wake of the war, the Hesses fear the worst. Told in the voices of the family patriarch and his children, this is a haunting literary mystery that spans decades before its resolution. Hoover deftly examines the intrepid ways a person can forge a life of their own despite the dangerous obstacles of prejudice and oppression.

My Review:

Alright, confession time.  I’m breaking my rules by reviewing this book.  I swore after a psycho author harassed me at work I would never review an All Iowa Reads book again.  Ever.  I would read them of course so I could participate in the book discussion held at my library but my thoughts of that year’s title would not leave that room and never be posted on my blog again.

So, why am I reviewing this year’s selection?  Well, mainly because I really liked it.  This is by far the best All Iowa Read’s selection that I have read in my years working in a small town Iowa library.  I am totally shocked!  I have to give props to the panel this year’s title was a good call.

There was so much I could relate to in this book.  Being from Iowa I knew this family, or rather one just like it.  In fact, my best friend growing up was a first generation German and I remember spending so much of my youth at their farm.  I felt like I knew these people and could identify with them even though I am only part German.  I have a feeling that most people are going to be able to either see themselves or someone they know in these characters.

Surprising that isn’t what hooked me, though, it was the mystery of what happen to those girls that held my interest.  This was a well-crafted puzzle that I didn’t quite figure out and was pleased to see how everything turned out.  I also thought this book was very timely for the current immigrant drama going on in our country.  So many forget that their family too came from elsewhere and that they probably weren’t welcome here either.  It seems that after a few generations we forget to have any compassion to those just arriving and how much new blood contributes to our society.  The book delves into to sexism and should remind us just how far woman’s rights have come and just how far they have yet to go.

This was a surprisingly good listen.  I find myself still reflecting on it and remembering my childhood.  I’ve lost connection to that childhood friend and her family, it often happens.  I wish them well, though, and thank them for letting me experience their culture for a time.

My Rating:4 Stars

F*ck That by Jason Headley

Book Review

 


fckthatBook Genre:
 Non-Fiction, Humor

Book Series: Stand Alone

Released: 4/12/16 by Three Rivers Press

Pages: 65  Price: $14.00 Hardcover

Links: More Info, Goodreads

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program for an honest review

 

Book Synopsis:

We all have an inner voice. Sometimes it’s just not quite as serene as we’d like. 
 
Based on the viral video that had everyone from yogis to workaholics raving, F*ck That is the completely truthful and oddly tranquil guide to achieving your inner peace.

My Review:

This is a cute little book and quite clever.  Not very long, perhaps a bit pricey at $14, but still very giftable.  The pictures inside are simply beautiful and juxtaposed with the humorous text (chock full of naughty words btw) made me want to read it twice.  Once to focus on the script and next to look at the lovely pictures.  This book would be perfect for someone who works in a difficult environment and could use a laugh.  In all honestly though while the book is making a joke we all should take to heart the message of something are just not worth the drama we let them create in our lives.  I’m happy I requested this book.  It made me smile and I hope it does my husband as well because next time he has a crappy day at work I’m going to leave this for him on his desk and hopefully it will brighten his day.

My Rating: 4 Stars

ARC Cats in Paris by Won-Sun Jang

Book Review

Cats in Paris: A Coloring Book of the Felines of Paris

Book Genre: Coloring book

Book Series: Stand Alone

Released: February 23, 2016

Pages: 80

Links: More Info & Author Bio

Source: I received this book for an honest review from the publisher through the blogging for books program.

Book Synopsis:  

This gorgeously illustrated adult coloring book draws readers into the secret world of cats in Paris as they explore the city’s most famous (and feline-friendly) spots.

Say bonjour to the cats of Paris as they slink through its fabled streets and alleyways, from Montmartre to the Shakespeare and Company bookshop and into a feline-filled land of playful imagination. Featuring intricate pen-and-ink drawings of tabbies, Persians, Siamese, and more, this evocative coloring book’s frisky kitties lie in wait for your colorful stylings.

My Review: 

I’ve reviewed four coloring books so far and this one is probably my favorite.  It might have something to do with the theme, I am a cat lover after all.  I was delighted when it came in the mail and I look forward to hours spent filling in the pages as I relax in my living room.  As with the other coloring books that I’ve reviewed from this publisher the book is of exceptional quality with nice thick pages that work well with what ever medium you choose to work in.  The cover is removable and colorable (is that a word?) as well.  There is a variety in types of pictures featured in the book, most geared for the more advanced artist, but there are a few that work well for us with a less steady hand too.

Unlike two of the other coloring books I reviewed there is less of a story in this book.  Well perhaps in the beginning we shown some scenes from Paris featuring cats, but most of the book is simply a collage cats and other images or different cat scenes.  There were a couple of points that cost this book that last star for me.  The fact that the book will not lay flat for easy coloring or have removable pages.  This is something I wish the publishers would take into account with they make these beautiful books.  It is difficult to color a book that will not lay flat.  There is also some coloring pages that feature overlapping images that the OCD person in me didn’t care for.  Do I color the flower or the cat, do I break the color of the flower into different shades where they overlap the background image…  It just frustrated me for those few images and is probably not a big deal for most people.  I would have also like less images featuring teeny tiny little images that can only be filled in with a very sharp pencil point.  I know it is an adult coloring book, but still common I don’t want to spend all my time sharpening a pencil.

Otherwise this is truly a lovely book and will make a great gift for the coloring cat-lover in your life.  The price on the back cover is $14.99 and I feel quite reasonable for the quality book you are purchasing.

My Rating:  4 Stars

Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Daniel G. Amen

Change your brain

Stand Alone: Released 11/3/15: 480 Pages

I received a copy of this book through the blogging for books program for an honest review

More Info & Author Bio

Book Synopsis:

In this completely revised and updated edition of the breakthrough bestseller, you’ll see scientific evidence that your anxiety, depression, anger, obsessiveness, or impulsiveness could be related to how specific structures in your brain work. You’re not stuck with the brain you’re born with. Renowned neuropsychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen includes cutting-edge reseach and the latest surprising, effective “brain prescriptions” that can help heal your brain and change your life:  To quell anxiety and panic:
Use simple breathing techniques to immediately calm inner turmoil
To fight depression:
Learn how to kill ANTs (automatic negative thoughts)
To curb anger:
Follow the Amen anti-anger diet and learn the nutrients that calm rage
To conquer impulsiveness and learn to focus:
Develop total focus with the One-Page Miracle
To stop obsessive worrying:
Follow the “get unstuck” writing exercise and learn other problem-solving exercises

My review:

I’m afraid this book is not for me.  I requested it on a whim thinking it might help me with my issues with worry, anxiety and depression.  While it still might, I’m afraid it is a much more technical book than what I was looking for.  This is more of the type of book that my husband would be interested in, so guess who is getting a late Christmas gift…  I’m sure this book is chock full of all kinds of helpful information, but being a reader of mainly fiction it is far to dry for my taste and I’m not going to slog through it to dig out the little nuggets that pertain to my situation.  I guess I’m looking for more of a CliffNotes version instead of something that reminded me of a 9th grade biology class.  Granted it is far more advanced, but it felt too much like homework to me.  I’m still going to skim through the sections pertaining to my own personal struggles and hopefully I’ll be able to find some helpful information, but I’m not holding my breath.  I need to find an author on this topic that has a more conversational tone and doesn’t talk over my head.  So for me this is a DNF.

 

My Rating: DNF

ARC Adulthood is a Myth: A “Sarah’s Scribbles” Collection by Sarah Anderson

Adulthood is a myth

Stand Alone: Publish 3/8/16: 112 Pages

I received a copy of this from the publisher through Net Galley for an honest review.

Author’s Site

Book Synopsis:

Are you a special snowflake? Do you love networking to advance your career? Have you never wasted a fresh new day surfing the internet? Ugh. This book is not for you. Please go away.

Sarah’s Scribbles — casually drawn, perfectly on-point comics by young Brooklyn-based artist Sarah Andersen — confront head-on the horrors, anxiety, and awkwardness of modern adult life. From the agony of holding hands with a gorgeous guy to the yawning pit of hell that is the wifi gone down to the eye-watering pain of eating too-hot pizza because one cannot stand to wait for it to cool down, Sarah fearlessly documents it all.

Like the work of fellow Millennial authors Allie Brosh, Grace Helbig, and Gemma Correll, Sarah’s total frankness on extremely personal issues such as body image, self-consciousness, introversion, relationships, and bra-washing makes her comics highly relatable and consistently hilarious.

My Review:

I came across this cute little book up for review and thought I would give it a shot.  Now I don’t follow the author on social media but I’m sure I’ve seen shared comics from time to time.  Not a whole lot to this book except for some clever comics depicting aspects of adult life that we all can totally relate to.  I found myself chuckling and wanting to share with the spousal unit or friends that I thought might appreciate the topic at hand.

This book would make a fun little gift to most any adult of any age as there is much inside to which we all can appreciate.   Some of it is slanted more towards a girl’s perspective, but there is still a lot of material that is gender neutral.  Personally I really enjoyed the child-free jokes that were included.  While I said I wasn’t a follower before, this little book has made me a fan and my next stop after this review is to add Ms. Anderson to my likes.

Cute book, clever and relatable content that would make a fun gift.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Whatever is Lovely by Waterbrook Press

Whatever Is Lovely: A Coloring Book for Reflection and Worship

Coloring book: Released 12/15/15, 96 Pages

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through the blogging for books program for an honest review.

More Info & Author Bio

Book Synopsis:

Color your way to peace and worship.

We live in such a busy, hectic world—but what waits for you inside this cover is a way to quiet the noise, express creativity, and spend some sweet time with God. Each page features an original design from one of a dozen different artists, beautifully illustrating a contemplative quote from an inspirational writer, a beloved hymn, or Scripture.
 
When we create, we echo the heart of our Creative God who designed everything and gave us the capacity to recognize beauty.
 
So go ahead! You have permission to pick up your colored pencil and be reminded of truth in a fresh way.

My Review:

Browsing through the request books I stumbled upon this coloring book and being a fan on the new hobby craze decided to put in a request for this lovely book.  Teach me not to read the descriptions carefully…  While this is a lovely book with beautiful illustrations waiting to be brought to life with color I did not notice when requesting that it would also be cock full of religious propaganda….  Okay maybe that is a bit harsh of a word, but there is poems, scripture and a whole lot of things I’m not comfortable with.  I’m not a religious person, and while I’m sure most of what is in this book is pretty harmless and meant to be inspirational it is not meant for someone like me.

So now I have it and need to review it.  Based upon appearance it is a beautiful book.  The illustrations are a nice mix of different styles and skill levels of coloring. The paper is of excellent quality and should hold up nicely to pencil, crayon or marker.  It would be nice if the pages were perforated, so the pictures could be removed for an easier coloring experience.  This book would make a lovely gift for a spiritual someone in your life.  I am going to hang onto it for now and will probably use my copy of the book for just such a purpose.

I am a little disappointed by all the religious propaganda in the book, but it is not the book’s fault, it is mine for not paying closer attention to what I was requesting.  Before you get all up in arms about my use of the word propaganda I suggest looking up the definition of the word.  Simply this book was not meant for someone like me.  I’m sure a more spiritual reader is going to love this book.

My Rating: 3 Stars

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

The Grownup

 

Stand Alone short story: Published 11/3/15: 62 Pages

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program for an honest review

More Info  &  Author Bio

Book Synopsis:

A canny young woman is struggling to survive by perpetrating various levels of mostly harmless fraud. On a rainy April morning, she is reading auras at Spiritual Palms when Susan Burke walks in. A keen observer of human behavior, our unnamed narrator immediately diagnoses beautiful, rich Susan as an unhappy woman eager to give her lovely life a drama injection; however, when the “psychic” visits the eerie Victorian home that has been the source of Susan’s terror and grief, she realizes she may not have to pretend to believe in ghosts anymore. Miles, Susan’s teenage stepson, doesn’t help matters with his disturbing manner and grisly imagination. The three are soon locked in a chilling battle to discover where the evil truly lurks and what, if anything, can be done to escape it.

“The Grownup,” which originally appeared as “What Do You Do?” in George R. R. Martin’s Rogues anthology, proves once again that Gillian Flynn is one of the world’s most original and skilled voices in fiction.

My Review:

I must confess this is my very first read by this author.  Shocking I know with the popularity of Gone Girl.  I can not tell you how many people have told me I MUST read that book…  Okay maybe I just didn’t count, but I would say it is at least half a dozen including one of my friends that knows my reading taste pretty well.  I knew Flynn is a dark suspenseful author and I have to be in the right mood for a book where I know I might not like the characters and there is little possibility for a happy ending.  I read to escape and her books just never seemed the right fit for me regardless of how often it is recommended to me.

That’s why when I saw this book up for review I decided that a short story would be an excellent way to try out this wildly popular author.  I have to say it wasn’t bad, I think I might give Gone Girl or one of the other titles a try now.  I liked the darker lead character, she wasn’t a saint by any means, but still likable.  The humor was very dry, not laugh out loud funny (for me), but more of a make you smirk while reading.  The story grabbed you with a great opening line and sucked you right in with just enough back ground information without bogging things down.  This short story has tons of twists and turns in its mere 62 pages.  Some I saw coming, some I didn’t.  Readers that need closure at the end of a story might be frustrated with this one, but I kind of liked how the author left it with the reader getting to draw their own conclusions as to what happens next.

Over all it is a quick fun read that can fit in your purse or coat pocket to take and read when waiting for an appointment somewhere.  It isn’t gory or really that scary, but it quite clever and I think fans of Flynn will really like it.  If you are like me and haven’t read this author before this is a great way to give her a try to see if she is a good match for you.  The retail price for the print version is a bit much in my opinion for such a short story, but it probably won’t stop fans from picking this one up to have in their collection.  Personally would go with the e-version that is much more reasonably priced…

My Rating: 3 Stars

The Time Chamber by Daria Song

The Time Chamber: A Magical Story and Coloring Book

Links to Goodreads

Companion coloring book to The Time Garden: Published 10/13/15: 80 Pages

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through blogging for books for an honest review

 More Info : Author BioRead Chapter One

Book Synopsis:

Korean artist Daria Song’s sequel to The Time Garden takes readers on a visual journey into a magical nighttime world seen through the eyes of a fairy.

This second book in best-selling Korean artist Daria Song’s coloring series features the voyage of a fairy who, when the cuckoo clock chimes midnight, enters the human world. To the tiny fairy, everything seems enormous and magical, from the curtains to the chandelier to a mystical rowboat that takes her further into an inky adventure. Filled with the imaginative, intricately detailed illustrations Song’s readers have come to love, The Time Chamber presents a view of our world made new—and ready for coloring.

 

My Review:

I had the opportunity to review the companion book by this author about the little girls side of this story and found it delightful. When I found this book available I wanted to add it to my library as well. It is full of the same beautifully intricate drawings by this talented artist, Ms. Song.

Much of what was said about The Time Garden in my review can be said for this book also.  It is of excellent quality, made from thick paper that I put to the test this time with markers.  The pages held up and not one drop bleed through to the other side with any of the colors I used.  I did not use sharpies, but standard craft quality markers you can find someplace like Target.  My only complaint again is that I wish the pages could be lain flat to make coloring in the inside by the binding easier.

The story is cute and again a nice change from standard coloring books out there.  The pictures are lovely and quite intricate, probably best for more experienced color artists and those with a steady hand.  Slow and steady though and eventually all the illustrations will become colorful expressions of an afternoon or evening spent relaxing.  I plan to keep this book and its companion on my coffee table for movie watching and when ever I need to unwind.

The books would make lovely gifts for most anyone, but I recommend for those friends you might have that are in need of finding some inner peace through recapturing a bit of their youth.  Who wouldn’t smile to find one or both of these books with a fresh package of colored pencils waiting for them on their desk at work or their favorite comfy chair. Or perhaps pick them up and treat yourself to an afternoon tech free finding your own happy spot.

 

My Rating: 4 Stars

Instant Happy Journal by Karen Salmansohn ARC

Instant Happy Journal: 365 Days of Inspiration, Gratitude, and Joy

Links to Goodreads

Stand Alone: Releases 10/6/15: 368 Pages

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

More Info  &  Author Bio

Book Synopsis:

This colorful diary inspires journalers to apply happiness guru Karen Salmansohn’sInstant Happy principles to their everyday lives, with 365 prompts to encourage a year of gratitude.
On the heels of Karen Salmansohn’s wildly popular gift book Instant Happy comes this happiness journal, with daily prompts to help you think about and apply happiness wisdom to your own life. Each page features a specific intention, inspiring quote, surprising scientific fact, or thought-provoking question to ponder. When you approach your day with Salmansohn’s “happiness prompters” in mind, you amp up your ability to notice (and create!) many more joyous moments in your day. But that’s just half of what it takes to live a supremely happy life. This journal teaches the top two habits of happy people: to naturally set their intention to enjoy a happy day, then end the day reflecting on what made them happy. When you end your day writing about what went right, you further strengthen your happiness mindset. With fill-in dates so that you can write and reflect at your own pace, this little journal features a graphic design and fresh attitude perfect for today’s modern happiness-seeker.

 

My Review:

This is a cute little book and I’m thrilled to have it in my library.  I picked it out because I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately and I thought it might help me look at the brighter side of life.  I need to remind myself of the positive aspects of my life and not dwell upon the struggles and I’m hoping this little journal will help.  Disclaimer, I’ve looked through the book; read the introduction and many of the journal prompts, but I have not started the journal yet.  It is just the beginning of October and being that the book has prompts for an entire year I’ve decided to wait until January 1st to start my journey towards a more optimistic self.

First impression of the book is that it is very cheerful.  The cover is lovely with its vibrant orange dots that opens up to reveal a short introduction before it dives right into the journal prompts.  The binding is nice and it opens easily to write your entries in.  The pages alternate in formatting and colors, but all are very stylish and lend well to the happy vibe this book gives off.  There is a smooth satin ribbon to help you keep your place, but I’m almost tempted to skip around to pick the prompt that fits my mood or activities of the day then work from front to back.  The pages are not pre-dated so it would be easy to search out the quote or question that fits your personal needs of the day.  The prompts are a nice mix of serious and whimsical that I just feel might be better utilized by searching out the one that speaks to you that day.

There is not much I can find fault with in this book.  Being a wordy person perhaps a little larger page, so that I can write a longer entry if desired.  The book is a handy size if you wanted to carry it with you, but plan to keep it by my bed or laptop and make this a daily ritual once I start.  I’ve not tried journaling before so maybe the smaller pages will be perfect for a beginner, but I have a feeling they will fill up quickly.   The book would make a lovely gift as well, after all who couldn’t use a little more happy in their lives.

 

My Rating: 4 Stars