Tuesday, July 29, 2014

'Alias Hook'

Clap if you believe in fairies!

And I did!  I clapped while reading 'Peter Pan'.  I clapped while watching the movies (but drooled while watching 'Neverland' with Johnny Depp).

But I didn't while I was reading 'Alias Hook', the new novel written by Lisa Jensen.

I did later on, but not for Tink.  Nope.  Not her.

This is a quite unusual story, written from the p.o.v. of James Benjamin Hook, a.k.a. 'Captain Hook'.

And it's for adults.  Not in a 'Fifty Shades...' way.  It's just full of adult perspective; longing, despair, sorrow, things not present in our childhood version of Peter Pan.  If you are a fan of the television series, 'Once Upon a Time', you'll have an instant connection to this story, although 'Alias Hook' goes a bit deeper into the legend.

Lisa Jensen has woven a wonderful tale about the villain who is stuck in a game of 'cat-and-mouse' with a not-so-innocent Pan.

Captain James Benjamin Hook is a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play the villain to a pack of malicious little boys.  James was once a dashing youth, a betrayed fiance, and finally, a bitter outlaw seeking revenge.  But after a brief affair with a voudon priestess, a curse has sent him to Neverland, where he is stuck forever in a pointless, never-ending war.

But when Stella Parrish, a grown woman, dreams her way into Neverland (which gives her more opportunities than Hook could ever dream of), she finds a very complex, intriguing man than the one she had only read about. Together, she and Hook find a connection, and seek escape before Pan and his boys can find them and drag Hook back into their never-ending game. But freedom begs a sacrifice, something that Hook can barely consider.

Author Lisa Jensen
Every character from the 'Pan' book makes an appearance, and, because of Pan's rules, they are forbidden to take a step out of line. Hook and Stella's exceptional courage put a new light on the 'legend', and the ending is a bit heartbreaking.

But I loved it.  

And I won't clap for Tinkerbell anymore.

'Alias Hook', published by Thomas Dunne Books (an imprint of St. Martin's Press), is available at your local library and independent bookstore!  ISBN 978-1-250-04215-6  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

'2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas'

Strange little stories with a remarkable protagonist seems to be the norm in my reading world right now.  But after I recently finished a story with three protagonists, it was like manna from heaven.  

Of course, following the journey of three interesting characters could be a tad confusing, but Marie-Helene Bertino, author of '2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas', carefully led me along the way with not only humor and grace, but also a unique writing style.

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, brilliant nine-year-old who is an aspiring jazz singer.  Still mourning the recent death of her mother, a former singer, her goal in life is to sneak into the legendary jazz club, The Cat's Pajamas, and sing her heart out on the eve of Christmas Eve. Ignored by mean-spirited classmates and facing rejection at her school, Madeleine develops a tough exterior. 

On the same day, her new recently-divorced teacher, Sarina Greene, has moved back to Philadelphia and is nervously preparing to attend a dinner party which will reunite her with a former high school boyfriend.

And Lorca, the owner of The Cat's Pajamas, discovers that he might have to close his beloved club unless he can come up with $30,000 to save it.

The steps these characters take to face their difficulties are something to behold.  Although the story is full of loss and pain, humor abounds.  I eagerly turned the pages, curious about the outcome, hoping that Madeleine finally realized her own dream.  I wished Sarina the utmost satisfaction, and as for Lorca....well, he broke a few rules, despite the fact that he tried his best to enforce them.

As I wrote earlier, Bertino's style is quite unique, which made this one unforgettable story. Her mastery at creating compelling characters is a gift, indeed.
Author Marie-Helene Bertino

But this is primarily Madeleine's journey.  You can almost see the wheels spinning, the plans made, her boldness leaving you almost breathless.  She's stubborn and difficult (and isn't afraid to use a lot of profanity), but very brave.

And it was her bravery that made me question my own goals. We all suffer losses, but some people (even fictional ones) can help us take that first step toward happiness.

Especially via a strange little story.

'2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas', will be released by Crown Publishers in August 2014.  Book Hog thanks the publishers for the opportunity to read this wonderful story!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

'Nora Webster'

An unexpected death can make you scream like a banshee, and then, out of nowhere, you feel as if grief is suffocating you.  But when you're out in public, at your job or a gathering, you're afraid you'll offend someone, so the sorrow is locked away.  You wonder if it will ever lessen, but you know it never will.

The last thing you want to read is a novel centered around the aftermath of the death of a beloved husband and father.  But, strangely enough, it was exactly what I needed.

Not many writers can pen a story that is both quiet and full of rage.  But Colm Toibin, the author of 'The Master' and 'Brooklyn' (two of my Toibin favorites) has managed to convey the quiet desperation and snide attitude of a character who will stay with you in his new book, 'Nora Webster'.

Forty year-old Nora Webster has just lost her beloved husband, Maurice, and she is left with four children and not enough money.  Maurice had pulled her out of the stifling world into which she was born, and now that he is gone, she's afraid that she'll return to her old life.

Living in a small Irish town where everyone knows everyone's business, Nora keeps tight-lipped while she goes about the task of getting a job and keeping her family together.  Awash in her own sorrow, she does not realize that her children are suffering from the loss of their father. But as she learns more about their inner lives, she has moments of unexpected kindness and empathy.

When she rediscovers singing, and sets out on a journey into the world of music, she finds her true self and her haven.
Author Colm Toibin

I didn't particularly like Nora at the beginning of the story, but Toibin's quiet exploration into her inner life, her sorrow and desperation, is indeed powerful.  We meet those who have affected her in a negative way (I disliked most of them), while those who are there for her make you want to hug them.

I could relate to her situation, and the sorrow she felt. I could relate to her determination to get 'out there' and find her bliss.  I could sense her quiet strength and the growing devotion to her sons.

But most of all, I admired the dawning of her inner power.

Her quiet inner power.

'Nora Webster' will be released in October 2014 by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster.  Book Hog thanks S&S for the opportunity to read this powerful story!