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!

Over to You by Roald Dahl

3/5 stars.
ebook, 164 pages.
Read from December 16 to 24, 2013.

This collaboration of stories emphasizes Dahl’s experiences as a flying ace for the RAF during World War II. I imagine that Dahl used many personal references and emotions in these stories, though from what I can find, from my very brief internet search, nothing specific has been directly referenced in the stories. Please feel free to comment if you know of a specific experience that has made it in one of these stories.  Additionally, I also wonder if writing these stories was a method he inadvertently used to deal with his own dreadful experiences in the war. Regardless, his renditions of the flying ace at war are detailed and provoking.

Beware of the Dog was by far my favourite in this collaboration as it brought a situation to my attention that I would not have even considered, having never been a solider, and the sheer terror that would follow. The character in the story finds himself in hospital and he isn’t sure what has happened, though he believes his plane has crashed. The nurse then proceeds to tell him where he is but other warning signs tell he may be elsewhere, like in enemy territory. In typical Dahl style, the reader is left not knowing if the main character is indeed in enemy territory or if he is just delusional and paranoid from the plane crash.

Overall I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to see a more adult side to their favourite childhood author or anyone interested in WWII experiences.

Separate Kingdoms: Stories by Valerie Laken

3/5 Stars.
(ARC) Paperback, 224 pages.
Read from December 07 to 08, 2013.

I’d like to thank Goodreads for free ARC copy of this book. This is a refreshing collaboration of intricate and intriguing short stories. This book was a quick read and I enjoyed the similar themes of division, loss and love and the emotional depth that each story contained.  The author played with the dynamics of how each of these themes affect us. No matter who you are, where you are from and who you are with we all share the same pursuit for love and will all be faced with our own losses and divisions in that pursuit. Some of the stories are heart-retching while others make you feel a bit uncomfortable but I believe that is the desired effect.

I found the story of the woman who lost her leg particularly touching.  The story is narrated from the point of view of the husband as he struggles to reconnect with his broken wife who has yet to come to terms with the loss and actually embrace and love the body she now has.  What was particularly effective was how you were able to get a perfect idea of the spite and hatred the wife had for her own position despite the story having been narrated from the husband’s point of view. It just details how well the husband knows his wife. It’s torture to see what the husband has to deal with in terms of being mindful of his wife’s turmoil but in also trying to address his own needs to reconnect with his wife and ultimately help her improve her well-being. The story’s ending was, thankfully, hopeful.

The story involving the adoption of a child I found difficult. There was so much tension between these two very different women over the selection of which child they were going to adopt together. This story was narrated from just the one woman in the relationship so I felt the need to take her maternal side (despite having not children) as her partner seemed eager to have the process over with and didn’t seem to be too bothered with which child they ended up taking home with them. The couple’s predicament felt very real and in a way and had a sense familiarity to it. The overwhelming urge the narrator had to adopt the one specific child, while the story never went there, was going to have explosive implications for the couple and Laken did an excellent job in depicting this.

Overall I enjoyed Laken’s writing and would recommend this novel for anyone with an appreciation for well-written short stories.