Thursday, June 23, 2016

Breaking Cat News: Cats Reporting on the News that Matters to Cats by Georgia Dunn

I just got into Neko Atsume and it's really fun, like having a zen garden of virtual cats. Cats are just really cute, okay? And they get a bad rap. People think that cats are jerks because they aren't unconditionally loving, like dogs. Cats are individualistic - they have different personalities, like people, so you never know what you're going to get. They're the chocolate variety box of pets. That's one of the things I like about Neko Atsume: the cats play with different toys and warm up to you at different rates. It's what I like about this book, too. The cat main characters - Lupin, Puck, and Elvis - are all completely different, and react to various scenarios in different ways.

I got this as an ARC from Andrews McMeel over a month ago but haven't been able to read it until now. Honestly, BREAKING CAT NEWS is like the cat version of Anchorman. You have these three cat bros who run their own news station "cat news," where they report on events like "there's another cat in the window," "there are fireworks in the sky, the world is ending," and "the human bought a new kind of cat food, the horror." As someone who has owned cats for the better part of a decade, I can attest to the accuracy of this comic, and I've definitely had my shoes puked in when a change in cat food was found unsatisfactory.

The illustrations are round and soft and very good, and I always found it hilarious when the artist drew them puffed up with rage. Lupin, the white one, is probably my favorite cat because he's the calmest. Puck is curious and mischievous and Elvis is quick to anger and kind of mean-spirited. Elvis also has a rivalry with one of the neighborcats, who likes to press against their windows and get belly rubs from the humans - something which makes him fluffy with rage.

BREAKING CAT NEWS is definitely a book for cat owners and cat lovers. If you don't own cats or like cats, I don't think you'll be able to appreciate this in the same way, just like how I wouldn't be able to properly appreciate a comic that was dedicated to the love of dogs. I don't hate dogs, but I've never owned any, either, and I don't always understand why people are so crazy about them. A dog comic would be a very poor choice of entertainment for me. But if you're a cat lover, this will definitely make you smile - it captures the furry idiosyncrasy that is cat pretty well.

P.S. At one point, one of the cats said, "CN News." Cat News News? That seems a bit redundant, like saying "ATM machine," or "estimated ETA."

3 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

Huge thank yous to the author and publisher for putting this book up on Netgalley. It's probably one of the best books I've received for review from that site this year. I'm rather desperate to get my hands on A WOUNDED NAME now. Authors who excel at doom and gloom are so few and far between

But Hutchison does. Oh, boy, she does.

I would be very surprised if Hutchison never read John Fowles's THE COLLECTOR - the parallels are numerous. Both are about obsessive men who compare women to butterflies and see them as sexual fetish objects to be owned and collected. Both are about women held captive who are desperate to escape. That said, I am not implying that THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN is derivative in the slightest. It is possible to be influenced by other work(s) and still make your story your own - something Hutchison does with great skill. Honestly, it reads like Gillian Flynn decided to rewrite THE COLLECTOR as a dysfunctional harem in the style of James Patterson's Alex Cross books, and it's darned good.

Maya was taken from the Garden. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are interviewing her to find out about the other girls and also about the man who called himself the Gardener. As the interview unwinds, we are left with bits and pieces of the story. The Gardener kidnaps young women and tattoos butterfly wings on their backs. He keeps them locked away in a glass harem, until they turn twenty-one-years of age. All the girls are marked with death the moment they come into his "care."

Maya had a dysfunctional childhood that forced her to become street smart at a young age. She knows how to read people and how to manipulative people, and she's not above using either of these skills in order to help escape. But as she gets to know the women she's trapped with the walls come down, and she finds herself more emotionally involved than she ever wanted to be - especially when some of her friends end up dying.

The writing in THE BUTTERFLY is gorgeous. The pacing is also really good. I found myself reading large chunks of this at a time without getting bored, which is often a good indicator of how good the author is at spinning out tension. I also loved the gritty realism in this book. One of the reasons I love Gillian Flynn's work, for example, is because she isn't afraid to write flawed female heroines or anti-heroines. Hutchison is much the same - she's damaged and can be a little cruel herself, which I appreciated, because given what she's gone through, why shouldn't she be?

I also really liked how The Gardener wasn't a stereotypical villain. He had moments of kindness, and even though he murdered and did terrible things to his was chilling, because you could tell that he didn't think he was doing anything wrong. He really believed what he was doing was love. His sons, Avery and Desmond, were also interesting characters - Desmond, especially.

Anyone looking for a good psychological thriller/mystery will do well to read THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN. It's clearly influenced by a lot of great writers, but does an amazing job standing on its own two feet. Would love to see a movie version of this book one day! Think of the costumes!

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Once Upon a Moonlit Night by Elizabeth Hoyt

DUKE OF SIN was probably one of the best regency romances I'd had the pleasure of reading in a while. There are two things I love in romance novels: gamma heroes & slow-burn romances. This book had both. I was able to recommend it to all my friends in good faith & was delighted to see that they enjoyed it, too!

ONCE UPON A MOONLIT NIGHT popped up on Netgalley recently & I was super excited when I was approved. It's a novella following Hippolyta Royle after she escapes from the mad duke. I liked Hippolyta in DUKE OF SIN, and was interested in seeing what her story would be like.

Unfortunately, OUAMN misses in a major way. Hippolyta is made into a foot-stomping, tongue-sticking-outting impotent heroine whose only purpose is to serve as a foil for the hero.

The hero is a jerk, who, when he happens on the scared, mud-covered heroine, assumes that she is either a whore or an actress and doesn't fail to inform her as such. She attempts to correct him and tell him that she's actually a rich heiress (totally a smart thing to do when people are trying to kidnap you for your wealth), but he just haw-haws, and continues to insult her.

DUKE OF SIN was so good that I was expecting to be a little disappointed by any sequel that came after (because it's hard to write two major hits in a row), but this just seemed like it was in a different class altogether- it was rushed, the romance was unpleasant, the hero was a jerk, the heroine was ridiculous, and somehow the characters decided they loved each other even though the hero did nothing but insult her & ogle her chest. I'm hoping that this was a fluke; the result of writing a novella too quickly and making the rookie mistake of assuming that rushed is ok in a novella.

For what it's worth, I did like the secret about the heroine even if I didn't like the way it was broached. Also, the hero has a pet mongoose, and I thought that was neat. :)

1 to 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 3, 2016

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero

Celebrity memoirs can be hit or miss with me. I have found that unless they are either a) part of a fandom I ardently worship, b) have a story to tell that I can personally relate to, or c) just dishing out some A+ gossip, I have difficulty finishing them.

IN THE COUNTRY WE LOVE is about Diane Guerrero's childhood. She grew up in numerous poor neighborhoods with her Colombian parents, both of whom were illegal immigrants. One day, when she was 14, she came home to find that both of them had been taken away without notice, leaving her behind.

Guerrero writes about her depression, and how this disruption in her life damaged not just her relationship with her parents, but many of her personal relationships to come. She talks about self-harm, her frustration with being poor, and the heartbreak of watching her parents apply again and again for citizenship, only to be taken advantage of by conmen or repeatedly denied.

The end of the book is a bit more heartening. She gets into acting and writes about how she received bit (but recurring) parts on both Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin. She ended up writing a cathartic op-ed piece about immigration that drew the attention of the president himself, and ended up becoming rather vocal on her pro-immigration policies and the benefits immigrants have to offer.

There are two authors listed in the back of this book, so I am guessing that means that Guerrero was working with a ghost-writer or a co-writer - not an uncommon phenomenon with celebrity memoirs. I do think that both authors did a good job creating a single "voice" that sounds genuine and authentic. I sympathized with Guerrero's plights, even though I couldn't relate to them. It was amazing how much she was forced to endure before making a name for herself. I watched one of the interviews she gave and it was very emotional; she is obviously very passionate about what she believes.

The only chapter that doesn't really jibe with the rest is the last chapter, which outlines Guerrero's thoughts on immigration, closing with tools for immigrants to seek out help or make their voices heard. Before this chapter, IN THE COUNTRY WE LOVE wasn't very political, so this 180 was a bit of a surprise, and didn't really fit with the rest of the book. I also think that her views will likely alienate her from a lot of readers who might not believe every person who wants to come to the U.S. should be let in, even if they don't subscribe to the Great Wall of America plan of the hard right.

This was decent. I'm not sure I would purchase it myself, but I was very grateful to receive the opportunity to read it from Netgalley and the publisher. I'm also glad to see an alternative view on immigration being posted by a person of color to contrast the many (and there are many) anti-immigration and/or xenophobic views that are spewing all over the internet right now. I may not agree with some of what she says, but I value her arguments and what she is trying to represent.

2.5 out of 5 stars.