Bloodsucking Fiends

img_6096Date Read: Various

Rating: 5 (of 5) stars

So I’m doing it again. It has been quite some time since I’ve read this book, but have come back to it several times. So, I will start with a story.

I discovered Christopher Moore when I was in college. There was a Borders Books near campus, which was where I often spent my long breaks between afternoon and evening classes, browsing and adding to my to read list rather than working on homework or reading for class. Borders liked to do these weekly table sales: buy 2 get one free, or buy one get one half off. It was like I had to find more than one to add to my ongoing collection. (Incidentally, I consider this a primary contributing factor to my now out-of-control to read list of 260+ books.) Anyways: it was on one of these tables that I found “You Suck: A Love Story.” I’m not generally a big fan of romance novels, so I was obviously intrigued. Upon discovering it was the follow up to a novel called “Bloodsucking Fiends” (also a love story), I knew I had to read them both.

Within a few pages, I knew I was hooked on Christopher Moore. His novels are well thought out, a bit ridiculous, and hurt your stomach laughing out loud funny. I love that he takes on subjects and characters that are well known, but then makes them his own. These are not the same vampires you know from Bram Stoker and Anne Rice, but that doesn’t stop them from researching themselves in the source materials.

Speaking of research, despite the zaniness of it all, it is clear the Moore does his homework before embarking on a novel. He shows a clear understanding of the material from which his characters grow, and masterfully guides them into new life. That’s right, I just described a guy who incorporates fart and penis jokes into all his writing as “masterful.” Really though, how else can you describe someone who can perfectly meld pure ridiculous with well known mythology? Somehow, you end up with a novel that makes you think, but also makes you laugh.

As a final comment on Christopher Moore, I think it’s important to note that he does not just draw on classic material, but also on his own. Although I would not consider them to be in any way a series, his novels all take place in the same world. This ranges from brief cameos to full on character borrowing. It’s not unusual to suddenly realize that a character is familiar because they were introduced through a minor part in a previously read book. While I suppose some might find annoying, I appreciate that Moore is able to make this feel natural. I have not yet encountered an issue with story continuity, nor have I felt that I didn’t get “enough” about a character in an individual novel.

Boris’s thoughts: “You know you’re never going to finish that to read list if you keep rereading books. Whatever. 3 paws.”

The Museum of Extraordinary Things

img_6038Date Read: April 11 to May 13, 2018

Rating: 5 (of 5) stars

This book was not what I was expecting. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure what I was expecting when I picked this one up. It came highly recommended by a friend, although I feel like our taste in books does not always have a huge overlap. It’s not that I was expecting it to be bad– I was just expecting something different than what I got.

While this novel could be called a romance, there is much more to it than that. Honestly, the romance aspect of the story was the least interesting part to me. There are several layers to the story– romance, mystery, perhaps even adventure. I particularly liked the historical aspect, tying in the events of the city in 1911, and touching on the labor movement. I knew the setting was historical, but thought the history aspect ended there. I was pleasantly surprised with the inclusion of historic events, and how they were intertwined with the characters. The firsthand depiction of the fire at the Triangle Factory was fascinating, albeit horrific. I appreciated Eddie’s perspective on the world, and how different it was from Coralie’s. Seeing the developments and changes in each of them through the novel was interesting.

After saying that, I feel that I should emphasize the word “appreciated.” There was quite a bit about Eddie that I did not like, but I do think his character is redeemable. He is cynical and selfish, and there was much in his behavior that just sort of irked me. However, his ability to view the world differently through his photography and his impulse to seek justice for the Weiss family create an appealing contrast to the other aspects of his character. I always have a greater appreciation of an author who can create a character that I do not quite like, but still want to root for.

 

Boris’s thoughts: “Too many dogs. More interested in the fish. 2 paws.”

Dragon’s Fat Cat

img_6116Dav Pilkey has become quite popular with several of his characters (Captain Underpants, Dog Man, etc.), but I don’t think there will ever be one that I love quite as much as Dragon.

This is one of five books chronicling the (mis)adventures of Dragon. Whether he is learning how to take care of a new pet, celebrating a holiday, or just trying to get by in his daily life, Dragon has a way of getting things a bit mixed up. He is a little too easily spooked for Halloween, buys too much food at the grocery store to fit into his car, and is really not sure what can be done about the smelly yellow puddle problem that comes along with having a pet. However, he always knows where to turn to get a little help with his problems, and things end up working out for him in the end. He is a fun, silly character that has a few laughs for both kids and the adults that are reading with them.

Of course, I may be biased because we are both obviously cat people.

These are great for early readers–they have the feel of a chapter book, but the fun of a picture book. Each book is also broken up into shorter stories, but text is lower level and there are tons of great illustrations. I love the little “extras” that get added in to the story through the pictures.

As is my habit, I realize that I have again reviewed a whole series rather than an individual book. However, I’m going to stand by this as fair. As children’s books, these all go together fairly seamlessly. I certainly would have a hard time recommending one over the others. While I could probably narrow down a favorite story in each book, differentiating from there would be difficult. The four books that I have read each have a specific focus (Dragon’s Fat Cat, Dragon Gets By, Dragon’s Halloween, and Dragon’s Christmas), and each of the four books that I have read fit so well with their unique subject.

Boris’s Thoughts: “Are you trying to imply something? I’m not fat, I’m big boned! I’ll give a little credit though, since I guess that one cat does look a bit like me. 2 paws.”

The Sign of the Four

img_5999Date Read: April 4 to April 10, 2018

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars

Despite the relatively high rating that I gave this book, I struggle with it a bit. I tend to be more of a crime TV watcher than a crime novel reader. It usually frustrates me to spend so long reading a book to find the resolution of this type of story line, but I find the Sherlock Holmes stories I have read to be an appropriate length to keep my attention. The problem is… Sherlock Holmes.

I like the idea of Sherlock Holmes, but I have to be honest, I really do not like him as a character. He is arrogant, obnoxious, and talks down to everyone, even those for whom he purports to have some level of respect. Every day life is just too mundane, and a murder isn’t really worth solving unless there’s something complicated about it. Sure, he’s a brilliant detective, but who has the patience to read a novel where the main character is constantly taunting: “I know the answer, but I’m not going to tell it to you because the pieces don’t fit perfectly yet… can’t you figure it out on your own?”

That all being said, I love Watson as narrator. He is able to convey the excitement and suspense of the case, with just enough impatience for Holmes antics that it makes the reader not feel so bad for disliking him. While certainly not the detective that Holmes is, Watson is intelligent enough to be a few steps ahead of the police in following Holmes’ breadcrumbs toward the resolution. Watson is the balance that is needed to make these stories enjoyable for me.

Perhaps so far I have cheated you a bit in this being a book review. I have mostly commented on Sherlock Holmes in general, rather than specifics to this book. With such a well known character/series, it’s hard to talk about a single story in isolation, and I feel a bit at a disadvantage as this is only the second of these stories that I have read. From what I have read from others, this particular story seems to be considered fairly mediocre in the grand scheme of Sherlock Holmes. Seems fair enough. While I enjoyed the book, I do have a hard time imagining Holmes to become the sensation that he was if all of the stories were like this. However, in comparing this to the other that I have read (A Study in Scarlet), I think I slightly prefer the balance obtained in this story. A Study in Scarlet was too disjointed– the story of Holmes solving the mystery, and the explanation of the mystery, were entirely separate. The backstory to the mystery of The Sign of the Four was much better integrated.

Boris’s thoughts: “This review has taken you much too long to write, it’s cutting into my lap time. 1 paw.”

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Date Read: November 12 to November 24, 2015img_5711-1

Rating: 5 (of 5) stars

This is a book from my childhood, and yet, not something that I would quite consider a childhood memory. Okay, okay, I realize that makes no sense.

I know the cover of this book from my childhood. I remember talking about the events of the first chapter of this book some time in middle school. But when I decided to revisit it a few years ago, I had absolutely no recollection of anything that happened in the rest of the book. I knew the basic premise of the book, but the story was completely unfamiliar to me. I have chosen to attribute that to me not finishing it back then, as I really do not think I could have forgotten a story that I now love so much.

The story covers a huge range of topics, while painting a fair picture of life in Puritan New England. Kit is the perfect hero for the target age range for this book– she is fierce and independent, but learns that her own priorities require her to balance this with her family and her friendships. And of course, what is there that you could not love about about Hannah? She is perhaps quirky, but warm and loyal. She bakes for her friends, and will not abandon those who depend on her (even if it is her cat).

While perhaps a minor point in the story, there is a moment that resonates for me, and touches upon my love for the fall season. Having lived all of her life in the tropics, Kit is at first taken aback by the weather of dreary New England. However, one morning she awakes to an unexpected sight: the world has become awash with brilliant reds, oranges, and gold. She realizes as she gazes over the landscape, “in October, any wonderful unexpected thing might be possible.”

Boris’s thoughts: “You started this on the day you met me, AND someone goes back to rescue a cat? 4 paws!”