Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Thoughts about 3 quirky books: The Future for Curious People by Sherl, The Time Fetch by Herrick, 2 AM at The Cat's Pajamas by Bertino

This is kind of weird, really -- three quirky reads in under a month? That doesn't happen often. I'm just going to talk a little about each of them and what I thought was good or bad, as per my new commitment to kicking formality in the head and shoving it out the door.

The Future for Curious People by Gregory Sherl has an interesting history. The story idea was the very prolific and professional Julianna Baggott's. But she thought the story needed a twenty-something's perspective and basically turned over everything she'd written to Sherl, a poet she believed competent to handle her baby. She holds the copyright although his name is on the cover. Fascinating.

The Future for Curious People is about two people who are involved in relationships. Godfrey has proposed but not been accepted by his girlfriend, Evelyn is uncertain her boyfriend is the right person with whom she should settle. Both go to the same "visionist", a doctor who gives them each a drug and puts a wacky device on their heads. They then can see scenes from their possible futures with a specified person. This alternate reality is oddball, in and of itself, but it's the hodgepodge of crazy characters that make the book truly shine. I responded mostly as intended, I think. I loved the two main characters and hoped they'd drop their respective partners and end up together. I liked the goofy secondary characters and the idea of the visionist.

Otherwise, I thought the book had a sagging middle problem and  -- this is bizarre -- after finishing the book I completely forgot the ending by morning. Either I was really beat or it wasn't memorable, I'm not sure which. Still, I liked The Future for Curious People especially for the characterization, and I'd read it, again, sagging middle and all. I did like the beginning best, though, and would not hesitate to reread only the first 100 pages for the sake of character study. My copy was sent by Algonquin.  So was the next book . . .

The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick is either a middle reader or young adult. I'm not actually certain but it's suitable for either and I think it leans MR.  I've got the book here and I like the first paragraph from the cover flap so here 'tis:

Under normal circumstances, a Time Fetch sends out its foragers to collect only those moments that will never be missed or regretted. It then rests, waiting to be called back by the Keeper, who distributes the gathered time where it is needed in our world and others.

Going on in my own words, a rather strange boy (middle schooler, I think?) named Edward thinks the Fetch is a rock and pulls it out of its hiding place to take to science class, setting into motion a chain of dangerous events in which time, the earth and the people existing within Earth's time are put into jeopardy. Edward's two best friends and a snarky girl from school (acting out as bullying characters often do) have to eventually join together to save time and the world.

Again with the nutty characterization, which I loved, but The Time Fetch is fantasy. As I was reading, the main thought running through my head was, "This would have been a favorite if I'd read it as a child. I would have read it over and over again." When I sat down to write to friends about the reading, I thought the synopsis made it sound kind of ditzy. It didn't come off that way as I read but there were moments that I thought were less than stellar. The end was wild and hairy, twisty fun, though, so I closed it feeling satisfied. I may even try to foist it on my 22-year-old.

2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino (from Crown via Shelf Awareness) is a book that has a smidgen of magical realism mixed in with a large dollop of -- yes, again -- eccentric characters. Madeleine is a motherless child of 10 whose behavior is appalling. Her father has retreated to a drug-addled haze in his despair but she has a large support circle comprised of people who knew her mother and look out for Madeleine as they promised in her mother's dying days. Sarina is a divorced teacher who teaches Madeleine and is surprised to find herself still attracted to a man from her past. Lorca is the owner of The Cat's Pajamas, a jazz club. Three threads and a pretty good job of knitting the threads together in unanticipated ways.

I'd been in a bear of a slump when I picked up 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas and because it was the first book to suck me in for quite a while, it kept me up very, very late. In fact, I tried desperately to finish by 2 A.M. for kicks. I failed, but I didn't sleep long and finished it shortly after an early wake-up call.

The funny thing about 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas is that I was aware of its flaws (truly vulgar language that crossed the characterization lines, a failure to pull off the magical realism due to one particular scene in which that magical touch should have shown up but didn't, one of the three intersecting storylines' failure to be as compelling as the others, a tragically odd and confusing ending) but I loved it at the time for pulling me out of the slump. Upon reflection, it loses some of its glow because the vulgarity stands out in my memory.

The author's turn of phrase was what made the book particularly quirky and I was mesmerized by her use of language. 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas is one of those books that don't hold up as well upon reflection; they just happened to be right for the moment. I loved it, for the most part; I'm glad I read it. I will hesitate to read more by the author till I've heard whether or not future offensiveness in her writing is off the scale. That was the one thing that bugged me during the reading, although I had fun observing how the author played with words. She definitely has a unique style.

The cover . . . oh, my. That cover cannot possibly be properly portrayed photographically. It is sparkly-beautiful. I appreciate all three of the covers in this post but 2 A.M. is my favorite.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. I was wondering about that Baggott book! I noticed the copyright! Thank you for clearing that up.

    1. You're welcome! It's an interesting story, the way the book came into being, isn't it? Very strange to see a different author from the dude on the cover listed as the copyright holder.


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