Grey Cats by Adam Biles

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4/5 stars.
Read from February 20 to 22, 2013
ebook, 101 pages.

Another little throwback review to a great indie read that I discovered almost 2 years ago today as part of an Author/Reader discussion on the TNBBC.  I wrote my thoughts out immediately on the novel as I was little taken back by the small, but awesome book.

 I feel the need to read this book again even though I just finished it. There was so much going on in this short novel that I fear I didn’t fully absorb it all. Having said that, wow! Adam Biles you are a master with words. I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamic and unique metaphors that followed this intriguing plot and I truly appreciated the style and talent of the writing. It was refreshing!

This story is philosophical, humourous, tragic and inspiring. The narrator (who is never actually named, nor did I noticed until it was brought up in discussion) goes out at night in his home of Paris to track down his girlfriend, Melina. She regularly goes out like this and up until now the narrator has never asked why, as she is a night person and he is a day person. While out looking for his lover he is shown a whole other side to the Paris he knows by day. The descriptions and scenes are carnival and dream like and they take the reader on a roller-coaster experience that has a shocking ending.

“In ze night, all ze cats are grey.”

This quote, found in the book, I feel describes the narrator and why he is unnamed, as well as Melina and the rest of the lost souls in the Paris night world. They’re hiding in shadows away from themselves and their past  the night to search of an identity among others in similar situations in which, the narrator in the end, finds himself through Melina.

I also found this book strikingly and peculiarly romantic. The narrator delves into the feelings and details of his relationship with Melina while he is out trying to find her in this world he is not familiar with. He goes over her flaws, how they met, why they work well together and ultimately in the end how much she means to him. These reflective portions of the book felt like the only grounded part of the story as they stepped away from the dream-like adventure he is partaking in. I found that I was able to catch my breath, so to speak, from the rest of fast paced plot in these portions.

Overall a highly recommended novella for anyone looking for an awaking read by some fresh talent!

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

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2/5 stars.
Paperback, 351 pages.
Read from July 14 to August 06, 2015.

I wanted to like this book, I really did. I  was excited to read this book as I had never read anything by McCarthy prior to this. I had heard so many great things about him so I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t enjoy this book more. I haven’t given up on McCarthy yet though! I will read The Road, his most notorious publication before I make my final opinion on him.  

The book takes place around the Texan and Mexican border in the US during the 1850’s.  The book follows a runaway teenage boy, known only as, the kid and after getting arrested in Mexico he is acquainted with some men and works his way into joining their gang in order to get out of prison. The gang is a depiction of the historically notorious Glanton gang, who hunt for the scalps of Native American’s for profit and pleasure. After terrorizing and taking scalps the gang comes up with an idea to rob a bank, which ultimately doesn’t go well. Wounded and taking heavy losses, the remaining gang works their way through the desert where tensions within the group begin to show themselves.

I did appreciate McCarthy’s style, or lack there of in a way. McCarthy is one of the few authors that can get away without using practically any punctuation. This lack of punctuation worked really with the characters and their Texan slang but as a reader, you’re left to determine who is speaking because McCarthy never uses quotation marks. I definitely had to re-read a few pages just to follow some conversations. McCarthy also uses a substantial amount of Spanish, which he did not translate. So if you’re not familiar with Spanish, you’ll most likely have to do some translations yourself to understand what’s going on. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever looked up so many words in the dictionary before. McCarthy is a well-versed man.

I felt the most interesting parts of the book were all about the kid’s rough childhood. After he joined up with the group of men to start scalping native heads, is where I started to lose interest. Not because the book lacked for violence or because the characters were uninteresting but because I couldn’t keep track of the plot. The scenes all seemed to resemble each other in that the group of men would scalp some heads, get in trouble with the natives or the locals, then meet some new people during their journey’s through the desert and as a result a lot of people died. I know that I was guilty of skimming a few pages out of frustration with this strange plot.

I wish that this novel was more focused on the inner workings of the kid rather than the intricacies of the plot and its philosophies. This approach would make the book more pleasurable to read but it would also take away some of its ingenuity. I would recommend this book to those who are familiar with the history of the US at this time and for those who are familiar with McCarthy’s work.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

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4/5 stars.
Paperback, 294 pages.
Read from July 07 to 14, 2015.

When  I think about movies that stuck with me as a child, The Last Unicorn falls in my top 3 favourites without a question. It reminds me of lazy Sundays and sleepovers with my cousins. I didn’t know until this last year that the movie itself was based on a book, which was pretty exciting news for me. Normally, I wouldn’t read a book after watching the movie, as I almost always read the book first, but I forgave my childhood ignorance for not knowing about this book’s existence and read it anyway.

The unicorn lives an immortal life and anywhere a unicorn lives is prosperous and inspired. The unicorn in this story has lived in the same forest her whole life and has been completely content to keep things that way. That is until she hears the ramblings of a butterfly informing her that she is last of her kind. After much deliberation the Unicorn decides to leave her forest in search of her own kind. She is presented with a world she doesn’t recognize. People have gone so long without seeing unicorns that many do not see her as one, but rather a pretty mare. After falling asleep one evening during her travels she is captured by Momma Fortuna and who has a traveling carnival of ‘monsters’ and mythical creatures. This is how she meets Schmendrik the Magician. Schmendrik helps her escape from Momma Fortuna and she reluctantly agrees to take him on her quest. Shortly afterwards, another member joins their quest, Molly Grue, after being held captive by some thieves  that seem to think that they’re something similar to Robin Hood and his men.

The three of them get word that the last of the unicorns are some where around the horrid King Haggard’s castle and his terrifying Red Bull. As the three of them come upon the castle a situation unfolds in which Shemendrik has to make a very rash decision with his magic in order to save the Unicorn’s life. The decision will ultimately change the Unicorn forever and lead her to know the truth about where the rest of the other unicorns are and forcing her to make decisions that no unicorn has ever had to make.

The movie plot line is almost identical to the book with a few missing scenes which, as a book lover, was nice to see. It was however also nice to have a few scenes that were a bit different from the movie so that their were some surprises left for me in reading the book.

This book is remarkably adventurous and imaginative, so it’s no wonder that it’s consider a classic among young adult novels. Outside of the adventure the characters are very dynamic and approachable. Schmendrik struggles with his magical abilities, is cursed, and doubts himself constantly. Whereas Molly is stubborn, and strong after years of being controlled by her father before she ran away with a group of thieves, but she still has a softness in her heart for the belief of unicorns and tales of Robin Hood. These aspects make the book appealing at any age. The characters are just complicated enough that an adult can appreciate them but they are also genuine enough that a youth will enjoy them as well. I would recommend this book to anyone young at heart and for those that still want to nurture their imaginations.