Freshly Brewed Book Reviews

The freshest book reviews from an avid bibliophile.

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helen Bertino
Oof. This book gave me a headache. At first, there was an Amelie-like quality to the introduction of a very, very large cast of characters, but that enchantment got old quickly. Backing up: this book follows a number of characters, a “day in the life” sort of deal, including timestamps, leading up to 2 A.M. (not-so-spoiler alert; it’s in the title). Not only are there multiple “main” characters to keep track of, but there are multiple minor characters thrown in for good measure, as well as characters who make a short appearance to add to the flavor of the story (but whose existence seemed to serve no real purpose to me, other than to confuse and frustrate me; I enjoyed 100 Years of Solitude, and found that book a bit easier to follow, character-wise, just as a reference.)I was most intrigued by the love story, and would have much preferred to get more of a history on the characters involved in that series of events. But they were just another pair of cogs in the wheel, chugging the story along to the Cat’s Pajamas at 2 A.M. Unsurprisingly, all of the characters interact in one way or another before they wind up at this jazz club for the much-hyped 60 seconds at 2:00 A.M. that the title boasts. I didn’t feel that this was a character study, nor a particularly plot-driven novel; I think the zaniness of the way the story is told is meant to overshadow these elements.While I think I could have been captivated by this story had it been more focused on fewer characters (I have pretty good concentration while reading, but I had to keep rereading passages because I wasn’t sure who was who and what they were doing and what was real and what was invented), the whole thing felt very disjointed to me. Some might find it charming, again, a la Amelie (which is my favorite movie, so that’s a high compliment), and maybe I’m not the intended demographic. But it was a relief to finally be done with this one, if only because the laundry list of characters detracted from my enjoyment of the story as a whole.

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helen Bertino

Oof. This book gave me a headache. At first, there was an Amelie-like quality to the introduction of a very, very large cast of characters, but that enchantment got old quickly. Backing up: this book follows a number of characters, a “day in the life” sort of deal, including timestamps, leading up to 2 A.M. (not-so-spoiler alert; it’s in the title). Not only are there multiple “main” characters to keep track of, but there are multiple minor characters thrown in for good measure, as well as characters who make a short appearance to add to the flavor of the story (but whose existence seemed to serve no real purpose to me, other than to confuse and frustrate me; I enjoyed 100 Years of Solitude, and found that book a bit easier to follow, character-wise, just as a reference.)

I was most intrigued by the love story, and would have much preferred to get more of a history on the characters involved in that series of events. But they were just another pair of cogs in the wheel, chugging the story along to the Cat’s Pajamas at 2 A.M. Unsurprisingly, all of the characters interact in one way or another before they wind up at this jazz club for the much-hyped 60 seconds at 2:00 A.M. that the title boasts. I didn’t feel that this was a character study, nor a particularly plot-driven novel; I think the zaniness of the way the story is told is meant to overshadow these elements.

While I think I could have been captivated by this story had it been more focused on fewer characters (I have pretty good concentration while reading, but I had to keep rereading passages because I wasn’t sure who was who and what they were doing and what was real and what was invented), the whole thing felt very disjointed to me. Some might find it charming, again, a la Amelie (which is my favorite movie, so that’s a high compliment), and maybe I’m not the intended demographic. But it was a relief to finally be done with this one, if only because the laundry list of characters detracted from my enjoyment of the story as a whole.

Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles, #1) by Colin Meloy
Wildwood, written by The Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy (and illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis), reads like a dream combination of a Wes Anderson film and a C.S. Lewis novel (read: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). Prue’s baby brother Mac is stolen away by a murder of crows, and she must rescue him from the depths of Wildwood. Talking animals, high stakes adventures, beardy bandits fighting a band of foxes, magical spells, a little girl off to save the day: a recipe for success that absolutely tickled me. While the themes here feel possibly too adult at times, I highly recommend this one, especially if you can find an edition with the full color plates.

Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles, #1) by Colin Meloy

Wildwood, written by The Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy (and illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis), reads like a dream combination of a Wes Anderson film and a C.S. Lewis novel (read: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). Prue’s baby brother Mac is stolen away by a murder of crows, and she must rescue him from the depths of Wildwood. 

Talking animals, high stakes adventures, beardy bandits fighting a band of foxes, magical spells, a little girl off to save the day: a recipe for success that absolutely tickled me. While the themes here feel possibly too adult at times, I highly recommend this one, especially if you can find an edition with the full color plates.

Manicures
Which are basically just holding hands with a stranger for forty-five minutes whilst listening to Enya.”

—   Miranda Hart (Is It Just Me?)

“You may look at me and see a slightly-frayed, wool-clad woman with an inexplicably hefty rucksack, but I look in the mirror and simply give thanks for all I’ve opted out of.”

—   Miranda Hart (Is It Just Me?)
Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart
If you’re a fan of Miranda Hart, you’ll enjoy this book. If you don’t know Miranda Hart, remedy this, immediately - she’s one of the funniest comedians around, in my humble opinion. (Her show, Miranda, plays much the same way this book does.)In Is It Just Me?, Miranda dispenses advice for life to her dear Reader chums, as well as to her younger self (who expresses a lot of distaste for the adult Miranda has become). While many of the vignettes in this book would perhaps make more of an impact if done as a comedy sketch, a good number of these awkward stories brought a smile to my face. And it was especially fun to read this book as a fan of Hart, because I was reading it in her voice (such fun!) Some of the situations Hart finds herself in are a bit hard to believe, but I do not doubt they all happened; I’ve had some pretty awkward life situations occur that might sound unreal if they hadn’t happened to me.All in all, I’d recommend checking out Miranda before reading this book; I’m not sure it would be as funny (or endearing) to someone who had no experience in watching Hart be hilariously awkward on screen first.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 2) by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series continues to be hilarious and unusual. I love the blend of real life and gaming life, and the jokes don’t stop. It’s pure book candy, and I love it.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 2) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series continues to be hilarious and unusual. I love the blend of real life and gaming life, and the jokes don’t stop. It’s pure book candy, and I love it.

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, #1) by Richelle Mead
As far as YA vampire tales go, this was a pretty standard yet entertaining read. A friend had handed it off to me a few years ago (I know, I know - I’ve got stacks to go before I sleep!), but I’d only just gotten to it this year.The book is filled with strong female characters, including the protagonist. If you’re looking for a good YA vampire read, I’d choose this over Twilight if only because the plot moves faster and while there’s a romantic angle, it doesn’t feel nearly as creepy. I probably won’t be reading the rest of the series, but more out of lack of time than interest.

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, #1) by Richelle Mead

As far as YA vampire tales go, this was a pretty standard yet entertaining read. A friend had handed it off to me a few years ago (I know, I know - I’ve got stacks to go before I sleep!), but I’d only just gotten to it this year.

The book is filled with strong female characters, including the protagonist. If you’re looking for a good YA vampire read, I’d choose this over Twilight if only because the plot moves faster and while there’s a romantic angle, it doesn’t feel nearly as creepy. I probably won’t be reading the rest of the series, but more out of lack of time than interest.

Naja by Jean-David Morvan
Naja is just the sort of story I enjoy: a deadly good assassin, a complete badass with a full backstory, has to get back at the mystery man who’s ordered a hit on her life. She’s got the moves, the looks, and the lack of morals one would expect from a top-notch assassin. Morvan’s story kept me hooked from start to finish (especially because it gets a bit complicated and you really must pay attention), and Bengal’s art is captivating.Lots of violence in this one, so be forewarned. I’d like to give this comic full marks, but I can’t, if only because the ending is really…bizarre, and I’m still a little stumped by it. That said, it’s more than worth the read, and I’ll be seeking out more of Morvan and Bengal’s work in future.

“Now, all I saw were more things to love about him, and it made me sad.”

—   Rachel Hartman (Seraphina)

“I leaned my forehead on his shoulder, all the words I’d never spoken to him rushing my throat at once, forming a terrible lump there.”

—   Rachel Hartman (Seraphina)