Dog on it by Spencer Quinn

I read this for a book club. We have not met for it yet.

This is a mystery novel narrated by a dog. I did not realize this until I started the novel. It’s rather cute actually. There are lots of moments of silliness and adorableness especially if you love dog. I even laughed out lout whenever Chet the dog would narrate how he barked to another dog: “I barked. She barked. I barked. She barked.”

Other than the Chet’s narration, the rest of the novel is not particularly noteworthy. Bernie the private detective is a nice enough guy, but there does not seem to be a lot of depth to all these characters. Part of it is probably because it is narrated by a non-human. However, it does limit things for character development.

The plot was very predictable even for a mystery reader as myself. I was a bit disappointed how basic it was. I think this is a small quibble because this book is a light read. It’s easy writing and if you like desert settings, even better. I will not read on this series. It’s not for me, but I did not dislike the experience.

Read August 21-23, 2016.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This book has been winning awards and receiving hype. I have read all of the Termeraire books by the same author so I knew I could not go wrong.

I did not know the plot in advance, and in many ways, this actually feels really different than the Termeraire books. The writing is denser and the world building is much more complex. The tone is darker too. There’s even some romance.

I like the female protagonist and I like her relationship to her best friend Kasia. I enjoyed the focus on female characters. The plot moved at a good pace and there is a certain nuance to the evil in the story. The idea of a living forest and the various magic associated with it. Until I got to that part, I had kept waiting for the big hit of this novel.

On reflection, I can see why it’s acclaimed, but I do not love this book as much as some others. The romance could have been omitted and the man acts too much like a “Jerk with a Heart of Gold” trope. Maybe I was expecting something bigger, but the book did not move or excite me as much as some readers.

I still recommend it to those who like fantasy and I will continue to read Novik’s other works.

Read Aug 4-5, 2016.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

This was a nice and fun book about Denmark. I am writing the review for it rather late as I spent about 9 days after it studying for and passing a work examination. I never studied for something so hard in my life.

In any case, the weekend before, I read this little gem about Denmark. I really enjoyed the author’s humor and candidness. It is indeed laid out as a year with each month having a theme about life in Denmark.

As with many Europhiles people and especially one who reads books on happiness, I was interested in Denmark. I have not been and would like to go. It sounds idyllic in many ways; it’s progressive, the capital has a world-renowned food scene, and it scores well on many tests on human happiness. I also find myself really into a lot of Danish life described in the book. I can understand what “hygge” means. I love cycling, baking, and knitting too.

Of course, Denmark is not heaven on Earth, and I don’t even mean the taxes. I did find it interesting to know how violent it was and how the people did like to test the system of their health. I am fascinated by aspects of the culture and country. I don’t think all countries or most can achieve what they have, but there are definitely lessons one can take on the communal or municipal levels. It’s clear supporting the arts, encouraging clubs and physical activity, and community events make people happier.

All in all, I really enjoyed reading the author and her family’s first year in Denmark. In fact, I’d read another book about it.

Read July 22-23, 2016

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

It is always a bit difficult to review a book of poetry and personal essays. The work is subjective and this one in particular has a singular voice.

Not being American or black, I can not fully understand or empathize with all the experiences in this book. As a visible minority and as a human being with feelings, I can sympathize in more ways than one.

The prose and words are powerful in this book. Rankine uses images and second personal narrative to put yourself in her shoes and others who have been marginalized. It is raw. The words are unencumbered. They are emotional in their simplicity.

I found the works in this book disturbing and provocative in the best way. I was at times angry, sad, upset, and uncomfortable while reading this book. That is not often. I also loved how much it made me feel and think.

I highly recommend this work.

Read July 13, 2016.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

It has been six years since I first read the Millenium trilogy. I remember devouring the books and being disappointed when I finished them. While they had their flaws and melodramaic moments, I enjoyed the characters. I think Lisbeth Salander was a memorable modern literary heroine.

When I heard this novel was going to be made, I had mixed feelings especially considering the estate battle that went on between Larson’s family (his father and brother) and his long term partner who allegedly owns a fourth manuscript. Lagercrantz was supported by the formal estate from the family. Profit is definitely a motivation here.

In any case, this novel took me much longer than to read than I thought. Four days is a long time for a thriller book for me especially considering how I devoured the first three Millennium books. I did like the ending and I think both Lagercrantz did Lisbeth and Mikael justice to a certain extent. While I didn’t think it was a perfect continuation, I’m glad it was not suppose to be.

Overall, I think for fans of the Millenium trilogy, this is an alright attempt to continue that universe. I am someone who has no problem with published “fanfic” as it were. I also think I would continue reading this series if Lagercrantz were to continue. Not a perfect novel, but serviceable for those of us who like the characters.

Read July 4-8, 2016.

Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella

I have read many of Sophie Kinsella’s novels. Most of them are rather forgettable and not always worth the pick up. However, there is something nice and frothy about her style when she is good.

This is the eighth novel in the Shopaholic series. I did not read the last one, but I have read most of the other books in this series. At least Becky (Bloomwood) Brandon has developed as a character over the course of the books. Secondly, I think Kinsella is particularly funny when writing dialogue and situations for these characters. I had a good laugh during one scene of this book.

The writing in these books is nothing to wax poetic about. Sometimes it works for me, and sometimes it doesn’t. There were definite plot holes in this novel, but this is chicklit. I want a laugh and a quick read. For that reason, this worked. I will still probably read more Kinsella and anticipate more mixed results. That’s not to the worse thing in my reading life though.

Read June 25- July 1, 2016 (mostly July 1).

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson

I have read most of Bryson’s books and followed his career for the last 15 years or so. I enjoy this writing and I find it gets even funnier and more amusing as he gets older. In this book, he is hilariously curmudgeony and cantankerous throughout it. All the while still being warm, perceptive, and pleasant.

There were definitely a couple of laugh out loud moments from the book and found the read fun and lovely all around. The deadpan and snarky humor writing does notwork for everyone, but it was right up my alley.

I share Bryson’s love of Great Britain and I have been to a few places mentioned in the books. Like him, I can be both frustrated and charmed by the British. He really captures the spirit of the culture and people.

Recommended for anglophiles.

First started in January 2016, but had to return to the library after about 25 pages. Picked up again June 16-20, 2016.

Lesser Beasts by Mark Essig

I think that if I ever tried vegetarianism, the meat I would miss the most would be pork. I come from a pork loving culture to the point that growing up, we would have pork and seafood almost every day. I have consumed more parts of a pig than the average Westerner as a result. My grandmother was a pig farmer and I remembered as kid spending weekends at her place watching her big sow and little piglets.

My love of pork is not all consuming as there is a little bit of guilt. Not just of factory farming, but on the whole, pigs are really intelligent and wonderful animals. I learned a lot about pigs in this book and it was really fun especially the historical, anthropological and evolutionary history of the pig and humans. I also learned that of all the meat that I eat, the pig is the only who would eat me back if given the chance.

I found this book fascinating and fun as it married my love of history, food, and evolutionary biology too. I highly recommend if you enjoy these same topics.

Read June 1-5, 2016.

Monthly TV – April/May 2016

The Night Manager (20-23 04 16) – You watch this mini series for two reasons: the scenery/cinematography and the actors. Hiddleston, Laurie, and Coleman are the stars. I think Coleman is the best actor, but Hiddleston and Laurie are excellent. Hiddles is just pretty. The story and writing have issues. It’s not something to write home about, but this is a pretty, pretty series.

Daredevil Season 2 (last week of May) – I think the first season of Daredevil was so excellent and so good in terms of being distinct. I loved the actions in S1 more. I find S2 hit or miss for me. The law drama aspect did not work. I liked the Punisher. I didn’t really care for the Hand stuff. I really liked Elecktra and Matt’s chemistry. I did feel that Matt got very annoying most of S2 as he kept lieing to everyone and himself. I look forward to Elecktra’s return, but I’m not sure Matt’s character development is moving at a good pace.

Jessica Jones (last week of May into first couple of days of June) – As a followup to Daredevil, I finally watched the first season of this show. It was good. I do adore David Tennant and he was chilling in this. I really liked the writing, but I did feel that the search for Kilgrave could have been cut short by one or two episodes. Still, a very strong start.

Monthly Movies – May 2016

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (03 05 2016) – I’m long overdue to watch this, but I do not like Apatow humor most of the time. I do like Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. Carell works for me because there is such a sweetness to him that works really well here. I did not find a lot of the humor funny, but I think the actors did well.

Hackers (07 05 2016) – So 90s. This is movie is only 21 years old and I remember 1995, but it feels even older than movies I’ve seen from the 80s or before. The fact that it heavily features technology and that the lead actors involved do not even look that old makes it feel oddly removed. The technology is so out dated compared to what we have now. Angelina Jolie looked like an elf. I’ve adored Johnny Lee Miller for years so he was cute in this too. I was a bit bored during some parts of the movie though since it got overly campy at times.

Deadpool (10 05 2016) – There was so much hype and good reviews about this that I was expecting more. Since I followed the media around it, I felt I had seen most of the movie already. Some of the humor was so-so for me, but I liked the fourth wall breaks and the meta jokes. Plot was formulaic. I do think Ryan Reynolds is meant for this role. I liked the soundtrack too.

Brooklyn (13 05 2016) – I enjoyed the book and as predicted, I liked this movie. With Nick Hornby adapting and starring Saorise Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson. I like the whole cast and loved the setting. The ending is more satisfying too.

Crimson Peak (15 05 2016) – Not enough Hiddlesbum. I do not really like horror, but I like Guillermo del Torro’s style. Good cast and everything was super creepy and stylistic. Plot was alright. It was nice seeing Charlie Hunman in a role where he’s a hero without really being the typical Hot Guy physical though.

Walk in the Woods (28 05 2016) – As someone who is a fan of Bryon’s writing, I wanted to watch this for him and the book, but also this cast. Robert Redford, Emma Thomspon, Nick Nolte, and Mary Steenburger are all in it. I do not think you see Redford in these quiet kind of roles anymore. Even though this movie has a lot of humor and talking, it is very much a “quiet” movie where not much actually happens and the pace is slow. You could almost say Thompson was wasted, but she is lovely in anything. Her and Redford had lovely chemistry too. I laughed a coupe of times, but this kind of movie is not for everyone. I think Bryson lovers will appreciate some of it. The book was funnier in other ways though.

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure or Fanny Hill by John Cleland is considered the first pornography in novel form. This book was widely banned, illegally published, and denounced by its author. It is definitely a classic in an infamous way at least. But is it a good novel?
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