The Immortalists

img_0238Date Read: April 16 to April 29, 2019

Rating: 5 (of 5) stars

Would you want to know the day that you are going to die? This story is built around a fairly simple premise, but unwinds into an intricate and complex tale of family and relationships. As children, four siblings, Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon, visit a woman that people say can tell your future—specifically the day that you will die. Over the course of the novel, the following 40-ish years, we get to know each of the siblings a bit better in their own rite, as well as in relation to their family.

While reading, I loved and hated each one of the siblings. I adored their individuality, I cursed their faults, and I grieved each of their subsequent deaths. There were so many points that I could not put it down, even when I had a sinking feeling of what was coming. The story of each sibling is vibrant and emotional; despite the huge differences in how they chose to live in the time they were told they had remaining. The obvious discussion, which is even mentioned on the back cover, is the intertwining of fate and choice. Would Simon have lived so recklessly if he had not anticipated dying young– would he have lived longer if he had played it safe? How did knowledge of a death date play into Klara’s obvious mental illness, and would she have met the same end without it? Even Daniel, who claims to not believe the prophecy, is driven by the knowledge to actions that seem spectacularly out of character. While there could certainly be much said here, I thought the sibling relationship aspect was even more interesting, in the context of the impending dates.

After each death, we get a glimpse of that character from the view of the next, with trails of these through each sibling’s story. In each case, the surviving siblings carry with them some perceived responsibility for those before them. Is Klara responsible for Simon because she encouraged him to live his life? Is Daniel responsible for any of this by convincing his siblings to see the woman in the first place? What about Varya, who was oldest and should have known to put a stop to it? In her meeting with the woman, Varya asks, “what if I change?” Was her destiny determined before she asked, or was it the knowledge of her death date that changed her?

As expected, the novel overwhelmingly centers on death. However, it is also full of life—the richness of each story is intriguing and compelling. I loved the ending, which I thought contrasted with the first sections, but fit perfectly in the context of the full story. In a novel about death, we end on a note of life and hope for the future.

Boris’s thoughts: “After all of that… no, I don’t think I want to know the day I will die. I would, however, like to take a nap. 2 paws.”

The Remains of the Day

img_0221Date Read: March 18 to April 16, 2019

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars

Although it took me a painfully long time to get through this one, I actually quite enjoyed it. The story unfolds slowly, with the past and present interspersed. The narrative is a sort of stream of consciousness, a trail through present circumstances and reflections on the past as our narrator, Stevens, drives himself through the countryside. It is beautifully written, and the style was striking to me– the type of mind wandering is very much like the train of thought that I often find myself in when driving alone for a length of time.

Stevens is intriguing as a narrator, in that he is both extremely reliable, and completely unreliable. He recounts events themselves with extreme precision, but with no acknowledgment of emotion. He talks at length of dignity, but never truly defines it for himself. His definition, it seems, is that dignity means detachment. He separates himself from reality, making himself into what he believes his employer wants him to be. As he gets closer to his meeting with Miss Kenton, we start to see some small cracks in this shell. Although he does not yet admit it, he denies his connection to his former employer. While he will defend Lord Darlington to readers, he will not do so publicly. He begins to admit that perhaps he was misleading himself to believe Miss Kenton wants to return to Darlington Hall with him.

The ending we get is both tragic and hopeful. While his reunion with Miss Kenton is heartbreaking (he even admits this himself!), he seems to get some closure he was lacking. At that moment, Stevens becomes a bit more understandable as a character. His conversation with a stranger on the pier gives us a little hope for his future– perhaps he will seize upon the remains of his day, even if it is simply in his mastering of bantering with his new employer.

Boris’s thoughts: “You need to start reading some happier books. 2 paws.”

I am Pusheen the Cat

img_8907I spotted this book at my school’s book fair this fall, and simply could not pass it up. Prior to finding this book, I had seen a plethora of Pusheen merchandise, but had never seen any of the comics. This is a collection of many of the online comics, with a few bonus comics thrown in. Pusheen is a friendly cat, who loves food and various other cat things. Through the comics she shares some funny and valuable knowledge from the life of a cat: how to make cookies, where cats belong, and some other creative imaginings from the mind of a cat.

I have to admit, that there is a bit of a draw for the online comics. Although the animation is simple, it does add a bit of pizzazz that is lacking in the book. However, I still thought this was a fun book, and do not regret adding it to my shelves. I expect that it will be a great one to look at with my niece when she is a bit older. I imagine that we will have a bit of fun comparing Pusheen to Boris, my own fat gray cat who loves food. The book is primarily based in pictures, with fairly simple text throughout. It could make a good book for young readers who want to read longer chapter books, but may not be quite ready for them yet.

Boris’s thoughts: “Hhhhrrmmmph. I am NOT fat. I am just BIG. She is pretty cute though. But not as cute as ME. 2 paws.”

The Marvels

Date Read: December 29, 2018 to January 3, 2019img_8825

Rating: 5 (of 5) stars

I am completely fascinated by the work of Brian Selznik. The way he perfectly intertwines illustration and narrative to tell a story is incredible. The concept he used in this particular book is unique even for him, and was done spectacularly.

The Marvels tells two stories– the first completely through illustration in the first 400-ish pages, the second in a traditional novel format. The whole time I was reading, I was trying to solve the mystery of how the stories would come together in the end. I was constantly making guesses as to where things were going, and constantly being surprised. When the stories began to overlap, I thought it was a clever twist that the novel turned to do the same thing that I was doing as a reader– putting words to the original illustrated story, and then trying to solve the mystery as well.

This book was beautifully put together. The illustrations beautiful, and the stories compelling. While perhaps geared more toward a younger demographic, there is much here to enjoy for readers of all ages. I was also thrilled to discover, as I came to the end, that this story was based, in part, on real events. While the story is completely fictional, the idea behind the story is based on an actual person and museum in London. I have definitely found somewhere that I will need to add to my travel wish list.

Boris’s thoughts: “This book is heavy, and I’m kind of over it. 2 paws.”

A Year of Books (On My Cat)

It’s hard to believe, but it has been a full year since I have started this blog! Along the way I have shared some of my favorite books, as well as many pictures of my favorite cat!! It has been a ton of fun, and I am looking forward to see where the next year will take me. I have some ideas to mix things up a bit for the next year, and hope that you enjoy the ride!

To celebrate my first year of posts, I thought it would be fun to show a little glimpse onto the other side of this project. While I will fully admit that I am in no way a professional photography, I try to choose the best of my pictures to include with my blog posts. While Boris is generally a good sport about these things, cats have a fickle nature, which has lead to quick a few “outtakes” along the way. Enjoy!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

img_8777Date Read: December 3 to 29, 2018

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars

I have unintentionally done something that I generally try to avoid: writing about the same author twice in a row. At least there was a week off in between? Previously, I wrote about Cinnamon, a picture book by Neil Gaiman. I realized shortly after posting, that another work by Gaiman was up next on my novel reading list. While I suppose it is not ideal, here we are.

Despite the length of time it took me to read this relatively short book, I did quite enjoy it. In a way, it is a book about nostalgia and magic. But at the same time, it is itself nostalgia and magic. I love the idea Gaiman has here of magical places in the world, stuck in time: we go to them to remember things that happened there, but when we leave we start to forget. Forget the memories, forget the magic that we have experienced.

The main plot of the story is primarily a fantasy adventure, although I would say that it is “fantasy lite.” The magical creatures, both good and evil, are there, but the story primarily takes place in our world. In fact, the main point of the adventure aspect is to protect our world from things that are trying to sneak into it. For me, it really was the perfect amount and taste of fantasy: I do enjoy elements of magic, but get overwhelmed by the lengthy and often complicated works that dominate the true fantasy genre.

Boris’s thoughts: “The real important message in this story is the importance of the cat. Shame on that boy for forgetting his kitten. 2 paws.”

Cinnamon

img_8521-1Something that I could not quite put my finger on has drawn me to this book a few times when I have perused the children’s section of my local bookstore. I suppose it is most likely the beautiful cover, combined with an affinity for Neil Gaiman’s work in general. Despite picking it up a few times, I never actually read through the book until recently.

I always buy a book for each of the kids at our extended family’s Christmas party, and finally decided to pick this one up while shopping for them. I loved the simplicity of this book. It has the feeling of a folktale, although I am not sure if it has any basis in the actual mythology of India. Cinnamon is a princess who is blind and also does not speak. Her parents have offered many riches to anyone who is able to get her to speak, but all have failed. A tiger steps in to do the work that humans have failed to complete. In addition to an enjoyable story, I find Divya Srinivasan’s illustrations striking. The colors are bright and bold; the style is simplistic but full of detail.

Boris’s thoughts: “I could be a tiger. Majestic and all. Roar. Although I don’t know why the tiger would WANT more humans to talk. 3 paws.”