Code Name Hangry.

I lied to you, party people. LIED. (Surprise, surprise.) This week we will not be Tolkien about Tolkien (lol nerd) because I did not, in fact, indulge in a Ringer re-read.

sad bowie

DON’T BE SAD, BOWIE. IT WILL HAPPEN SOON. But, as Aragorn son of Arathorn, Isildur’s Heir, would say, it is not this day.

No, this day is for another book about war and the destruction it wreaks on everything it touches. I read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

code name verity

The Deal: (Taken from the book jacket AGAIN, because I’m packing for Ireland and frankly, you guys are lucky you are even getting one of my brilliant, elegantly-written posts this week, so there):

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Robyn says: Finally, a great book to pull me out of my slump. I’m actually at a little bit of a loss with this one, because it was so good. What do you say when a book is damn near perfect?

Well, to begin with, I loved the setting. Anything historical is like a siren’s song, and WWII is my particular catnip. Then add all of the amazing feminism and excellent female friendships and it’s like, HOW HAVE I NOT READ THIS ALREADY? We don’t get nearly enough stories about the women who contributed to the war effort, so this novel was a fresh perspective on a part of history I now want to learn everything about.

(That is a very important gif. I suggest you add it to your gif folder.)

Loved the characters. Verity and (spoiler?) Queenie, eccentric liars and storytellers, are my heroes, but all of the other characters were excellently rounded. I loved the way we gradually began to learn more about Verity’s captors, too. Hell, I want a dozen more books about Verity’s family and what happens to everyone after the war and please tell me Maddie and Verity’s brother live happily ever after because SOMEONE HAS TO, DAMMIT.

The best thing about this book, though, was the construction; specifically, its use of the unreliable narrator. The experience of reading Code Name Verity is a literary bait-and-switch. Three quarters of the way through the story, you realize everything you’ve read is untrue or partially true, and that Verity has been playing us as much as her captors. It’s a lovely, beautifully-executed trick, and Wein pulls it all of masterfully. Initially, I’d felt the story was rather slowly paced for my tastes, and I considered adding it to my mountain of DNFs. I am so so so glad I didn’t, because the final quarter of the book is like a trip through Willy Wonka’s psychedelic tunnel of hell, and everything that came before it is absolutely essential to get to that last heart-destroying stretch.

The novel is divided into two parts, the first narrated by Verity, the second by her best friend, Maddie. Maddie’s story is where all of the action plays out, and it’s also where YOUR HEART WILL BE RIPPED FROM YOUR CHEST LIKE IT HAS DECIDED TO STAGE A CAREFULLY PLANNED ESCAPE FROM ITS RIBBY PRISON. Yeah… I wasn’t expecting the Event. The Event which I will not discuss here. It’s dark – very dark – but I’m glad it is. Like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Book ThiefCode Name Verity doesn’t shy away from the ugliness and brutality of war. Nor should it.

Verdict: Read it. It will take you a week to digest and another week to get over. Then tell everyone you know to read it and if they don’t never speak to them again.

Best lines: Way too many to write them all here. I loved everything Verity says about lies and liars. One of my favourites: “But I have told the truth. Isn’t that ironic? They sent me because I am so good at telling lies. But I have told the truth.”

And then there’s “KISS ME, HARDY! Kiss me, QUICK!” and goodbye now I have to go drown myself in a pool of my own tears.

Rating: Four out of five broken hearts because this book broke four of my hearts and now I only have the little, shriveled, black one to keep me going. Shit, I’ve said too much. Hm, what? Oh, nothing to see here, just your average, one-heart-having lady. *Walks away, hands in pockets, whistling ‘God Save the Queen.*

Book Cat?

book cat bookshelf

Sweet Fancy Bastet, she found me! Be gone, pitiful scholar-hobo! I dwell above thee now, as is right and good and ever meant to be!

Oh Book Cat.

Slán, party people. I leave you with an image of me, having to relive my Code Name Verity soul-agony, just for you. You’re welcome.

gob hello darkness

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Damn you, Mercury!

Ugh, guys. I am in such a rut. Not my usual sort of rut (creative, romantic, professional, existential, homicidal, etc etc) but the absolute WORST kind of rut known to man… the loathed and dreaded reading rut. I’m blaming stupid, seeming-to-move-backward Mercury, which is retrograde right now. Stupid tiny, fast, extreme-weather-having, heavily-cratered planet.

Edit: FADED SPINSTER YELLS AT MERCURY

So the sad fact is that I am without a book to review for you this week. A string of DNFs (it means ‘did not finish,’ Mom) have left me feeling rather disheartened. I kind of just want to burn the TBR pile (‘to be read’ pile, Mom, jeezus) and hurl myself into Tolkien for a self-indulgent re-read. My Goodreads challenge will suffer. The looming biblio-Big Brother already judges me for my multitude of reading sins – book adultery, DNFs, way too much smut – so what the hell, might as well add indulgent re-reads to the list, right? TO THE TOLKIEN!

aragorn yolo

I know you want to know. Should I tell you? Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t. It’s not really professional… OKAY FINE you twisted my arm, I’ll dish the dirt. The books I DID NOT FINISH were: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Why? The first was unoriginal, the second I wasn’t interested in (seriously, you guys, THIS was what you were all freaking out about?) and the last I hated hated HATED. So bloody slow. So joyless. So studied and tedious and careful. I don’t want to see how hard you’re trying, mate. I’m not talking about difficult books – some of the best books are difficult books, aren’t they (cough TOLSTOY cough). I’m talking about the actual writing, the construction and word choice and hundreds of other things, nameable and otherwise, that all fit together in that amazing, magical puzzle to create the Book. Your writing should always seem like it took as much effort as blinking, even if you slaved over a single sentence for 32.5 hours before deciding to change one word and then scrapping the whole thing and writing something else and then going back to that first one after all. Writing should seem easy. If it doesn’t, no one will want to read it. Or at least, this lady won’t.

Ugh. I *hate* not finishing a book. I hardly ever do it, since I’m as stubborn as stone, but when I actually dread picking up a book because I find it formulaic or boring or outright repulsive, I have to remind myself that there aren’t any Reading Police lurking in the shadow of my bookshelf, waiting to haul me in for the crime of Failure to Finish a Well-Reviewed Book. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as Book Police.

Only Library Cops.

Mr. Bookman. Hero.

Until next week, you freaky cats. I hope you like hobbits because that’s what I’ll be Tolkien about.

PS: Happy Russian Christmas!

С Рождеством!

Join me in stuffing my gob with pierogis, cabbage rolls, and borscht while I ogle this fine, silver-foxy Dane playing a Russian gangster:

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Yum.

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Double yum.

eastern promises gif 8So wise. And so sexy.

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Jealous of a cigarette, dammit.

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So Russia. Much sexy.

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Smoking is bad for you AND SO AM I, BABY.

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Hngh.

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WHY IS THIS SO ATTRACTIVE???

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DYING. DEAD. RISES FROM GROUND AS ZOMBIE. GROANS “SEXYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY.”

eastern promises gif

Schwing.

Ahem.

Well, anyway… Here is another attractive fellow masquerading as a Slavic Sex God.

book cat russian hat

You do realize how creepy it is to call “your” cat a sex god, right?

Oh, Titus!

Cheers, everyone – Будем здоровы!

Also, shameless self-promotion here: do please follow me on twitter and tumblr if you want more of my brand of crazy weird craziness.

Suck it, Resolutions

WELL WELL WELL. Look who’s starting 2015 right. Yup, it’s THIS GUY. Suck it resolutions, I AM ACHIEVEING YOU.

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Did you miss me, darlings? Don’t try to deny it, I know you did. I’m sure 2014 was barren and joyless without me and Book Cat to warm your cold hearts and empty lives. No, no, let’s not get at all mushy. We didn’t miss you at all. Seriously, stop weeping, you’re embarrassing yourselves.

ANYWAY. I’m going to do what I always do, and forget anything and everything unpleasant until it suits me to take bloody revenge on who- or whatever has crossed me (that’s right, sleep with one eye open, 2014, you bastard). So we’ll just pretend last year’s “hiatus” never happened and jump right in.

The first book I’m reviewing this year is the last book I read last year: Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

bird box

The Deal: (Taken from the book jacket, because there’s no way in hell to explain this briefly without spoiling everything, which reminds me, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS…, er, later): Most people ignored the outrageous reports on the news. But they became too frequent, they became too real. And soon, they began happening down the street. Then the Internet died. The television and radio went silent. The phones stopped ringing. And we couldn’t look outside anymore. Malorie raises the children the only way she can; indoors. The house is quiet. The doors are locked, the curtains are closed, mattresses are nailed over the windows. They are out there. She might let them in. The children sleep in the bedroom across the hall. Soon she will have to wake them. Soon she will have to blindfold them. Today they must leave the house. Today they will risk everything

OOH, SPOOKY.

Robyn says: Damn. This was a really great read, one of those books that just sinks its claws into your gut and yanks you right into the world inside its pages. I read this the day before New Year’s Eve and I can honestly say, in my best Gandalf voice, I have no memory of that day.

What’s so great about it? Well, it’s a brilliant, creative idea, and something I haven’t encountered before – the idea that seeing the monster is what will lead to your death. It’s terrifying and intriguing. It speaks to something very primitive and childlike, like the part of me that still thinks a blanket over my head will keep me safe when I hear something moving around in the dark corners of my bedroom. Because I totally believe that, and you’re a liar if you say you don’t, too. But which of us can say we don’t eventually pull back the corner of that blanket-armour and crack one eyelid open, casting a slivered gaze into the darkness, breath held, desperate to see what scares us? Humans are visual animals. Sight is our greatest asset to survival, after our big ol’ brains. In Bird Box, sight is Malorie’s greatest weakness – sight, and her own mind, full of fear and uncertainty. Oh, and other people, too, of course. Because this is an apocalyptic horror novel, and by now I think we all know it’s other people you have to look out for, even when invisible, madness-inducing ‘creatures’ are trying to get you to look at them. (Side-note: I kind of feel bad for the creatures. Maybe they are just really needy, insecure dudes looking for validation. Imagine if every time you asked someone how you looked, they went crazy and killed everyone around them before finding a creative and gruesome way to commit suicide… Time for a new look, lol)

The story is exceptionally well-paced, so suspenseful that there was never a lull. The setting shifts from the early days of the crisis to the present, four years later, a single day in which Malorie decides to venture out of the safety of her house with the two young children in her care. I thought this worked really well. It allowed the author to provide exposition without the dreaded infodump, and also heightened the almost unbearable level of suspense. *Cartman voice* Seriously, you guys. I was totally on edge the entire time I was reading. Ooooh, you know what the word is? TAUT. I never get to use that word. IT WAS TAUT.

Some of the not so great things? Well, I really liked this book, so it’s difficult to find many flaws. I did think the characters sometimes fell a little flat. Malorie felt underdeveloped, which is probably odd for a POV character. The supporting characters were blurry (with the exception of Tom, who I wish we had gotten to know a little better). The kids were more like pets, for all that we are told about them.

Something else: for a horror novel, it was a little… family friendly. PG-13. Tame. Antiseptic. Ok, fine, I’ll just say it. MORE BLOOD, PLEASE. Yes, the psychological terror was awesome and effective and made me sleep with my nightlight on. Okay, with an extra nightlight on (SHUT UP). Still. I felt the story would have been improved a little by seeing something. It was like you’re waiting, waiting, waiting to finally see what we (and Malorie) aren’t supposed to see… and then you don’t.

Yeah. But maybe… sequel?

Verdict: Loved it. Read it. Totally worth the night of sleep you will inevitably forfeit to find out what happens next.

Best lines: A lot of great lines in this one, but I didn’t write any of them down because I was so engrossed in the story. Everyone else seems to love this one – thank Odin someone tore their eyeballs away from the page long enough to make a note of it. “It’s better to face madness with a plan than to sit still and let it take you in pieces.” Totally agree, dude.

Rating: Four out of five black shadow-monsters lurking in your bedroom closet tonight, waiting for the moment when you let your little head peak out from under the magic blanket and they ATTACK. Try getting to sleep now MWAHAHAHAHA.

Book Cat? Anything to add? How was 2014 for you?

titus bird box

My year, Librarian? It was infinite and infinitesimal, it was wonder and despair, it was magnificence and triviality. I am all things and all things are me, for I am Cat… Oh, read your books, puny-brained human. Write your words. I speak without speaking and my silence is a symphony. How I love you, simple creature.

Oh, Titus.

Until next time…

anigif_enhanced-27506-1417377366-7 Mwah!