Hi5: Russian Criminals, Voyeuresses,Vengeful Dads, Psychic Cats, and the OG MPDG

Welcome to the 2nd set of Hi5 for 2019, an eclectic set of books with almost NOTHING in common.

As I’ve mentioned before, my sister Dallas and I have been buddy reading 12 books a year based on specific categories since 2013. This year’s challenge, termed Bookwolves, began in January with a classic novel, my choice, followed in February by randomly generated word, Dallas’ turn.

  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)

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Judge a book by the cover: Picked up this edition at Half Price Books in Tacoma. It’s got some Russian-ish silhouettes on it. You know, minarets and such. However when I googled, the silhouettes actually correspond to real architecture in St. Petersburg, where the novel is set. The statue of horse and rider is a statue called “The Bronze Horseman,” a statue of Peter the Great unveiled in 1782. History! (Cover design by Peter Ridley)

The blurb: Miserable student Raskolnikov acts on a theory that great men can commit crimes and get away with it, so he does a crime to prove he’s great, but doesn’t reckon with a pesky little critter called “conscience.”

The Laud: It’s Dostoevsky, it’s a classic, it’s got themes. Okay, there are some things I liked about it. A horrific dream involving a mule that I didn’t like but will stay with me forever. Vividly drawn characters that are epically weird and memorable.

The Lame: I hate to hate on classic literature, but if I’m just too dumb to get it, oh well. I can admit that. Raskolnikov is perhaps the most unlikeable emo wretch of a hipster that I ever saw. His existential angst puts every pale wannabe poet to shame. He faints SO MUCH. How he manages to axe anyone to death is a mystery. He’s so lazy he can’t be bothered to kill himself. Also, EVERYONE LOVES HIM. That’s the true mystery. It’s a wonder the ding-dong eludes capture for as long as he does.

WOOF OUT: Hungry Russian street dogs. Sad.

2. Catalyst by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (2010)

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Judge a book by its cover: This book has a blue cover and a black cat. Some vaguely sci-fi looking dots. The end.

Catalyst was our February book read. For one category, we used a random word generator on the internet and then picked a book based on the word. Dallas, cat lady that she is, somehow conjured to get the word “kittens.” So here we go.

The Blurb: Set in space, fancy spaceship cats hunt rats, smell gas, and eat sparkly bugs. What will happen when a plague threatens animals everywhere? Also, sometimes the cats are pscyhic.

The Laud: Okay, it was cutesy that much of the book was told from the cat’s POV. They were for the most part appropriately bitchy and full of themselves, just like real cats. They’re also quite more vividly realized than their human counterparts.

The Lame: It’s really not fair of me to criticize, this is not a book I would have picked up under any circumstances. Except this one circumstance. It’s written like a YA novel. It has cats as main characters.

WOOF OUT: One unnamed, villainous canine, just following his instinct. Not his fault!

3. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (January 2018)

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Judge a book by its cover: Actually, I like the conceit of the blinds. Not that the idiot in the novel ever uses them. Approved by Gillian Flynn, inventor of twisty plots and unreliable narrators! 

The Blurb: An agoraphobic doctor thinks she sees a crime and no one believes her. This plot is new territory! Soon to be a movie starring Amy Adams!

The Laud: I listened to this as an audiobook. The narrator was good.

The Lame: How do you do a Rear Window ripoff and actually reference Rear Window? I just wanted to read something trashy and twisty, and yet this novel dragged on for so long. Also, if you don’t want to get caught peeping on the neighbors, maybe don’t peep with the lights on! This novel telegraphs its plot twists so often it might as well be the transatlantic cable. Take one boozy Girl on a Train, add an unreliable Gone Girl, bake at a tepid 200 degrees, and voila, enjoy (or don’t) one Woman in the Window.

WOOF OUT: A cat named Punch.

4. Lost Girl by Adam Nevill (2015)

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Judge a book by its cover: Um, a guy standing in the woods. 

The Blurb: Apocalyptic chaos, rising sea levels, depleted food sources, hotness. A father who will find his kidnapped daughter at any cost! He has a particular set of skills…not really.

The Laud: I loved Adam Nevill’s The Ritual, a classic “idiots in the woods” scenario that goes to some really weird, heavy metal places. That has nothing to do with this book.

The Lame: A standard angry father mixed in with an apocalypse that almost seems tangential to the plot. What if Taken was set in the apocalypse and the father was nowhere near as cool as Liam Neeson?

WOOF OUT: None. No woofs at all.

5. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (1958)

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Judge an audiobook by its cover: Michael C. Hall

The Blurb: Original Manic Pixie Dream Girl Holly Golightly and her numerous boring men.

The Laud: I’ve never seen the movie, so whether that’s a good or bad thing, I don’t know. The book is cute enough. Maybe I’ve just been too overdosed by every copycat Holly Golightly that’s come down the pipe, from film to book to living near Seattle to attending a liberal college that I failed to be sufficiently charmed by the book. Not to mention that for every quirky Holly there’s an inanely limp french fry dude falling in love with her. A Zach Braff to every Natalie Portman, a Him to every She, a bland President to every Olivia Pope, a plain noodle to every parmesan cheese.

The Lame: Oh, and the casual racism.

WOOF OUT: Another CAT!?! Okay, that seems to be the unifying theme among these books. 3 out of 5 with cats. Grrr.

 

 

 

 

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