Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

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    Publisher’s Synopsis:

Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding ‘fathers’ of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to humanity. For he is the inventor of ice-nine, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. Writer Jonah’s search for its whereabouts leads him to Hoenikker’s three eccentric children, to an island republic in the Caribbean where the religion of Bokononism is practised, to love and to insanity. Told with deadpan humour and bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut’s cult tale of global destruction is a funny and frightening satire on the end of the world and the madness of mankind.

    My Review:

Cat’s Cradle is a cynical, comedic, witty, dystopian view of the future, written in tight, economic prose.

From the very beginning of the novel, the reader is made aware that ‘Ice-Nine’ will eventually be the cause of a huge, end-of-the-world scenario and within the plot Vonnegut presents so many obvious opportunities for Ice-Nine’s release into the world, that when the act finally arrives – in the last 25 pages – it almost feels like a relief. In other words, this entire story reads like an anti-weapons-of-mass-destruction manifesto as it seems designed to persuade the reader that if you make such a thing, eventually someone will use it. The other strong message here, is that war is a huge waste of human life:

They [soldiers] are murdered children…. And I propose to you that if we are to pay our sincere respects to the hundred lost children [dead soldiers] of San Lorenzo, that we might best spend the day despising what killed them; which is to say, the stupidity and viciousness of all mankind.”   p.182

Vonnegut also spends quite a few lines satirising the roles of politics, and of religion, in society.

Truth was the enemy of the people, because the truth [poverty] was so terrible, so Bokonon made it his business to provide the people with better and better lies…. He asked McCabe [his friend the President] to outlaw him and his religion, too, in order to give the religious life of the people more zest, more tang…. And [so] McCabe and Bokonon paid a terrible price in agony for the happiness of the people – McCabe knowing the agony of the tyrant and Bokonon knowing the agony of the saint.”   pp.123-5

I found Bokonon’s invented religion great fun to read about. His teachings include advice such as “peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God”, information on the practice of boko-maru (the touching of two people’s feet, soul to soul) and other religious rites. The religious terminology is detailed and somewhat endlessforma, granfalloon, stuppa, calypso etc – but I didn’t actually mind that.

“We will touch our feet. yes,

Yes, for all we’re worth,

And we will love each other, yes,

Yes, like we love our Mother Earth.”

Somewhat predictably – because without this approach, Kurt Vonnegut would have found it much harder to mock society and to amuse us – there aren’t any characters in Cat’s Cradle, there are only caricatures. We meet a pushy, entrepreneurial American businessman; a scientist with poor social/life skills; and an extravagant and somewhat insane dictator, for instance. Still, nobody writes banter/dialogue quite like Kurt Vonnegut. Read just one of his books and you’ll want to read them all.


Jonah: “I’m not a drug salesman, I’m a writer.”

Julian: “What makes you think a writer isn’t a drug salesman?”

Jonah: “I’ll accept that. Guilty as charged.”


Julian: “Have you ever seen anyone die of bubonic plague?”

Jonah: “That unhappiness has not been mine.”


Newt: “For maybe a hundred thousand years or more, grownups have been waving tangles of string in their children’s faces…. No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat’s cradle is nothing but a bunch of X’s between somebody’s hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X’s…”

Jonah: “And?”

Newt: “No damn cat, and no damn cradle.”

Book Review: And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

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Goodread synopsis:

More than sixty years ago, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac sat down in New York City to write a novel about the summer of 1944, when one of their friends killed another in a moment of brutal and tragic bloodshed. Alternating chapters and narrators, Burroughs and Kerouac pieced together a hard-boiled tale of bohemian New York during World War II, full of drugs and obsession, art and violence. The manuscript, called And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks after a line from a news story about a fire at a circus, was submitted to publishers but rejected and confined to a filing cabinet for decades…

As I was reading:

p.36 – “There are a lot of different characters and agendas to keep track of and quite a few anachronisms. Still, it’s an interesting read so far.”

p.51 – “This book has ruined Twilight for me forever. I’m now imaging Al instead of ‘Edward’ standing in an oblivious person’s bedroom and it’s just creepy and funny and oh so wrong… #stalker-alert”

When I was done:

The story is based on Kerouac and Burrows’ own experiences, in 1940s New York.  In Kerouac’s own words this book is “a portrait of the ‘lost’ segment of our generation, hard boiled, honest and sensationally real” and by the end of the novel many of its colourful characters are either addicts, dead, in jail or in the army…  Don’t take this to mean that the novel is fast paced though, for – as the publisher freely admits on the jacket – it only “haphazardly drifts” towards its climax and so may bore or frustrate some readers.

I liked this book, but there was very little suspense built into the plot.  It read like a series of interrelated anecdotes – which were amusing and at times dramatic, but rarely thrilling.  So it was the historical and bibliographical tidbits in Hippos, which really captured my imagination, rather than the plot.  The ‘real’ characters, who inspired the fictional ones portrayed within its pages (Alan Ginsberg, Lucien Carr etc) are still as interesting to read about now, in 2015, as they’ve ever been.

 I’m now trying to decide whether I should watch the related 2013 film Kill Your Darlings, thoughts?

Book Review: Beloved by Toni Morrison

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When Toni Morrison’s Nobel Prize winning book Beloved came into my hands I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I got was a stunning fragmented narrative, that plays with metaphor and history. Various scenes have a dreamlike quality though, which might confuse some readers.

In her foreword Toni Morrison explains that she wrote Beloved at a time when she was pondering “what ‘free’ could possibly mean to women… inevitably these thoughts led me to the different history of black women in this country”. She convey the horrors of this period very effectively in her novel, but she also has something to say about the way in which we ‘remember’ slavery (or rather the ways in which we don’t).

There’s more of us they drowned than there is all of them ever lived from the start of time. Lay down your sword. This ain’t a battle; it’s a rout.
– Baby Suggs.

Disremembered and unaccounted for, she [Beloved] cannot be lost because no one is looking for her, and even if they were, how can they call her if they don’t know her name?

The historical setting lent credence to the supernatural elements; the book felt immediate, real and repellant. (This one had my heart in knots from the very first page; I’m not sure how I feel about this being read in schools – infanticide and rape both feature.) Sethe is one of the most interesting main characters I have seen and the secondary characters (Denver, Paul D, Baby Suggs etc) were all well drawn; the dialogue in Beloved impressed me.

My favourite part is probably the appearance of Beloved at 124: I missed all the metaphors in this scene on my first read through, but thoroughly enjoyed them on my second. Toni Morrison is a wonderful writer who has honed her craft to the perfect pitch for the story. So if you’re looking for strong writing, characters who walk off the page, a compelling plot and something to make you think, then look no further… But be warned, this author lands all of her punches.

Favourite line:

We got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow. – Paul D

Favourite phrase:

Ticking time.

My Rating: ☼☼☼☼

My Vote For Worst Cover (Edition):

Does anyone else have a problem with the model on this cover?!

Does anyone else have a problem with the model on this cover?!

Book Review: Hearts in Darkness by Laura Kaye

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MJ and Caden sitting in a lift, k-i-s-s-i-n-g….

I don’t often read novellas, but at 93 pages I figured I could give this one a shot – it didn’t seem too short.

I can definitely see why Laura Kaye has been garnering attention recently. Hearts in Darkness didn’t just portray a romance, but also presented us with two people who are easy to relate to. MJ’s narration in particular drew me in (this book was written in the third person, but with a dual p.o.v.).

All her friends seemed to either be getting married or engaged. It was like a line of dominos falling, only she didn’t seem to be in line.” – MJ

Despite the novelty of being with a woman like this [spooning], it all felt completely natural to Caden. And that made him cherish it all the more. Cherish her all the more.” – Caden

I have to say that Caden was a refreshing change of pace when it came to intimate scenes – at every stage he asked her “are you certain you want this?” in one way or another. MJ wasn’t rushed into anything by Caden, they chose what came next together, which was nice.

What disappointed me about this book was the slightly rushed emotional connection between MJ and Caden, which I blame on the ‘novella’ format.

I’m definitely planning to purchase a copy of Laura Kaye’s full length novel Hard As It Gets on November 26th, when Avon publishes it.

Book Review: Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead

In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists/geneticists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.

When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.

goodreads.com

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THE NOVEL IDEA:

The story offers a supercharged start to an imaginative new series with gods – Norse, Greek, Roman, you name it – and humans in a post-dystopian world filled with strange technology and a new rising civilisation complete with seedy provinces at the edge of empire…

FULL REVIEW:

The basics of this big concept universe are introduced in slow increments in an attempt to create suspense and hold the reader’s interest. However key terms like RUNA go unexplained for huge chunks of the book, leading to frustration on the part of the reader.

The storyline is ‘mission orientated’ which drives the story forwards at a good pace as the main characters become involved in tracking down a murderer. I liked that there were many faceted layers to this book, lots of strings waiting to be pulled. The ending itself introduced many new questions for our heroes – about the Praetorians for example, and the future role of SCI.

Of the three main characters, I found Tessa – the last to be introduced – the most relatable: when we first meet Mae she is beating up another woman at a funeral; Justin is drinking and gambling and while Adrian in Richelle Mead’s VA series was a sexy mess, Justin’s simply an addict.

There’s clearly a ‘doomed’ romance plot line on the horizon for Mae and Justin, giving the reader something to route for and agonise over, but I didn’t find their chemistry convincing. (Their lax attitude throughout the novel towards sex with other people was the nail in coffin.)

This is a complex plotted, action/fantasy read, with well written characters and plenty of meaty topics to intrigue.

READ TIME: a whole week.

I was given this book to review by Penguin (via netgalley), in exchange for a blunt review.

Book Review: Resisting Her by Kendall Ryan

SYNOPSIS

Agent Cole Fletcher lives for his job at the FBI, but after raiding a cult compound and meeting nineteen year old Savannah his focus starts to shift. Savannah is too old for foster care and too damaged to live on her own, so against his better judgment Cole takes her in. He tells himself all he wants is to protect her, to help her to escape the lingering fears of her past.

Savannah needs someone stable in her life and after meeting Cole she decides that person is him. He’s kind and dependable, sexy, and maybe she doesn’t just want friendship. Maybe with a guy like Cole she wants a whole lot more.

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AFTER THOUGHTS

4 Stars – Steamy and hard to put down!

This is my first Kendall Ryan book but it probably won’t be my last because I quite liked this one; I fancy the synopsis of ‘Make Me Yours’ so I think I’ll try that next. Agent Cole’s early protestations of his pure intentions towards Savannah ran pretty false, but once I got over this early annoyance I quite liked Cole. And he did put up with Savannah’s cuddling. (Girl, you just escaped a near miss with an arranged marriage – why are you climbing all over Cole? Not that I wouldn’t, but still!)

I liked the secondary characters, especially Cole’s sister, – and there was a puppy, who doesn’t love a puppy?! – although most of the book focused on scenes between Cole and Savannah so their world felt quite 2D. Not that the Savannah/Cole connection wasn’t my whole reason for picking up the book and I loved the switch in p.o.v. between them. Kendall Ryan did a great job here of writing from a male perspective.

Oh, and the bedroom scenes were pretty evocative, no issues there. I know some reviewers were bothered by the ‘other woman’ who Cole beds part way through the book, but as a tool for getting Savannah and Cole to face up to what they really want from each other (before they get involved romantically) I thought it worked well.

And the ‘THREE YEARS LATER…’ epilogue was great! Loved it.

Book Review: Own The Wind by Kristen Ashley

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Tabitha Allen grew up in the thick of the Chaos Motorcycle Club; Her father is Chaos’ leader, and the club has always had her back. But when her troubled high school years, spent pining after club member Shy Cage from afar and dealing with her irate mum, start to affect her future she pulls herself together to find a better path. One far away from Chaos and Shy Cage… But when tragedy strikes and she looses the one person she needed the most, she winds up back at Chaos in Shy’s orbit. Will history repeat itself or will Shy finally notice her this time?

Wow. Think ‘Sons of Anarchy’ meets romance novel. It’s sexy and chauvinistic and a whole lot of fun. I certainly wasn’t disappointed!

The first few chapters were written from Shy’s point of view, but after that they shifted between Tabby and Shy. I loved how the story spanned years, not days or weeks, as it made the creeping romance seem all the sweeter. I won’t say Shy was the perfect hero – won’t do laundry? Ergh! – but that did make him seem all the more real (and perfect heroes can be pretty boring…).

I really appreciated how Tabby spoke her mind and stood up for herself and others (she was a sensible, loyal friend) and I liked how functional her relationship was with Shy – neither tried to emasculate or pigeonhole the other. When Shy refused to ‘control his woman’ as one biker put it, I nearly cheered – very cool! You can be butch and fully support your girl’s independence. 😉

The family dynamics in this novel gave the story a deeper dimension, it’s not just a fluffy romance! And I liked that. In fact it’s: humorous (a certain conversation about IT geeks versus badasses had me in stitches), perceptive and really HOT. I noticed a ton of people on Kindle had been underlying Shy quotes and no wonder, his understanding of what a girl needs to hear is pretty damn accurate… *Sigh*.

I haven’t read any other books by Kristen Ashley but this was obviously the continuation / spin-off of an earlier series. Thankfully she explained things well enough that you can read this as a stand alone novel, dipping your toes into this awesome world. I myself am fairly determined to give Tabby’s dad and step-mother’s story a whirl one of these days (and I’m looking forward to Hop’s book which is coming up next!).

Book Review: Star Crossed by Jennifer Echols

This is Ms Echols first attempt at an adult novel, and the first book by her that I have ever read that is written in the third person. So, a lot of firsts, many chances for a screw up. But to my mind, Ms Echols never tripped herself up, not even once.

Wendy is a tough PR whizz, who knocks her clients into shape like a barbie shaped drill Sargent, but when her bosses decide she’s more nasty than nice, she’s sent to Vagas on one last job. A job she needs to do well, or she’s fired… In Vegas, while tracking down her client, Lorelei rockstar, she runs into Daniel her college rival, who is representing Lorelei’s ex. It’s a recipe for humour, romance and a bit of a thriller (when a mysterious stalker starts tracking Wendy).

This book rocketed on, never feeling like hard work, and I enjoyed Wendy’s verbal sparring sessions with Daniel which were always quite clever. A lot of people have said this book doesn’t feel like a Jennifer Echols book. But Jennifer Echols books have always been moody and clever and featuring main characters with problems that go deeper than a broken arm or a lost Kindle, and this book is no exception.

I prefer her first person books, so this isn’t my favourite book of hers (I also felt that Wendy and Daniel’s issues were resolved too quickly and conveniently at the end), but it still deserves its place on my shelf. If your looking for a funny, sassy, toe curling ride through Vegas, give Star Crossed a try. You’ll be impressed.

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Book Review: ‘A Most Scandalous Proposal’ by Ashlyn MacNamara

I must confess that I knew I’d probably enjoy ‘A Most Scandalous Proposal’ long before reading it – not because I’m a bit of a romance junkie, or because the cover was gorgeous and the synopsis titivating, although all these things are true, but because I first heard about the book in an email from Nelson Literary Agency (who rep many of my favourite authors, including Simone Elkeles). And I was not disappointed.

Ashlyn MacNamara’s debut grabbed me from start to finnish and made people gawk at me on several occasions when I laughed out loud; Ms MacNamara has a great sense of comic timing. The storyline was kept apace by not one romance or intrigue, but several. Julia is facing the marriage block as the ardent, horrible Clivesden (newly improved by a title) seeks her hand anyway he can, while her sister Sophia manages to wind up engaged to the Earl of Highgate (a scarred mystery) by way of an ill timed faint, and into all of this comes Benedict, Julia’s childhood friend.

I would have liked a slightly more expanded ‘just before the end’ section as the Julia/Benedict romance was settled too soon (why oh why do word counts exist?), but otherwise the book delivered completely. Well rounded likeable main characters with interesting predicaments, check, sexy heroes, check, humour, check.

I read this book through Netgalley (ebook for review) and now I shall be off to the bookstore to buy my own paperback copy for my ‘thoroughly rereadable’ shelf! Any questions? Feel free to post them below…

Next book in the series: ‘A Most Devilish Rogue’ (this will tell the story of Upperton, Benedict’s best friend).

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