Little Fires Everywhere

img_0855Book: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Date Read: August 27 to September 26, 2021

Rating: 5 (of 5) stars

I finally got around to reading this one when faced with the prompt to read a book that I bought because of the hype. I feel like this does not need much explanation—this book was everywhere for a long time even before it was made into a television series. When everything was starting to close down in the early months of 2020, I decided to start making regular purchases through some of the independent bookstores that were offering online ordering. As if I really needed an excuse to buy more books.

This one follows something that has become a theme in this blog: books that I loved and rated highly, but cannot find the right words to write about. Does it suffice to say that it lived up to the hype that inspired me to buy it? Probably not.

There’s a lot of things going on here, so let’s start with the big one: this takes place in a suburban community that is all about planning and order. Everything in its place and nothing that is unexpected. Of course, it’s not all bad to approach things that way—having a goal, sticking to a plan. The problem comes when that ideal is clung to too hard; when you forget that life does not always (or even usually) work that way. Sometimes you do everything right, and things still do not turn out how you plan. And that is when the first domino falls and everything begins to crumble.

Following along those lines, I enjoyed the varying dynamics of the mother-daughter relationships and the exploration of gray area in what makes a “good” mother. While each mother had the best interest of her children in mind, how this ultimately plays out varies wildly. Adding in layers of differing backgrounds, life experience, and culture to this complicates it further, creating an intriguing web of interactions. Despite the time that it took me to get through this, I really did find it engrossing.

Boris’s Thoughts: “A month of this book made a month of decent lap snuggles. I’ll take it. 3 paws.”

Zombie, Ohio

img_0482Book: Zombie, Ohio by Scott Kenemore

Date Read: August 13 to 26, 2021

Rating: 3 (of 5) stars

I chose this book in response to a prompt to read a book that was an impulse buy. I have so many books that would probably count as impulse buys—maybe even most of them. To narrow it down a little, I decided to choose a book that I had purchased for my kindle. For several months, I would regularly check the kindle daily deals, and racked up quite a few new books ranging from $0.99 to $2.99. It does not matter if a book had been on your radar if it costs that little, right? Well, I may have taken that just a bit too far. Although it seemed like a good opportunity to try out some new styles and genres, the actual end result was an increasingly out of control to read list.

This was one of those books: a zombie novel. I have never read a real zombie novel until now (and I am not entirely sure this one counts either). I know people who like them, so I thought I would give it a try. This was a slightly different take on the zombie novel, being told from the perspective of one of the zombies—seemingly the only truly sentient one in the bunch. While this twist did make for an interesting story, it was not one that I was really crazy about.

The book starts with the protagonist, Peter, waking up after a car accident. Other than memory loss, he does not feel that he is badly injured, although he can see that the accident looked serious. Peter’s memory loss is used as an opportunity to introduce us to the world and some of the characters—he needs to put the pieces together himself, so this is a natural way to lay things out for the reader. The first section of the book goes on along these lines, and is aptly titled “Revelation.” The book moves on into two more sections with similarly fitting names: Rampage (where Peter embraces life as a zombie) and Redemption (where Peter, although unapologetic, attempts to make up for his behavior in the previous section).

Part of what puts this story on shaky ground with me is the heavy use of two factors: gore and introspection. I realize that gore is to be expected in a novel about zombies. Given the premise of a sentient zombie as narrator, I also understand the need for some introspection. I think the issue comes with the combination: gore may be expected, or even required, in a zombie novel—but it typically does not come with descriptive soliloquy on the joys of licking the brain from the inside of a skull or the satisfying pop of biting into a fresh eyeball.

The introspective nature of our zombie narrator also meant that there were long sections that seemed to plod along, followed by condensed action. The balance felt a little off. Overall, it felt more like a diary of events than a plot driven novel, which did not feel like a good fit with the subject matter.

Minka’s Thoughts: “Silly humans. Everyone knows that cats are the only ones who are going to actually survive the zombie apocalypse. 2 paws.”

Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness

Book: Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Søderberg

Date Read: September 26 to 30, 2021

Rating: 3 (of 5) stars

In September I was challenged to read a book that I wanted to learn something from. I debated quite a bit about which book would be the best choice—so much so that I ended up choosing the one that seemed the quickest read because I had pushed things so close to the end of the month!

I picked this up on one of the discount racks at my local bookstore, and have to admit that I was really drawn in by the cover. It is a beautiful book. It sparkles. Of course, a pretty cover is not quite enough for me. I was also intrigued by the idea of hygge. Although only vaguely familiar with the term at the time, it seemed to me the embodiment of what I love about the fall season—not that it necessarily has anything to do with the season, but that it involves the feeling that I associate with this time of year.

I am not sure that I could be called a hygge expert after reading this one, but I do at least have a bit of an idea of what it means to hygge. Hygge is about togetherness and coziness and good feelings. As I expected, it is not so much associated with the season, but many elements are fall-ish to me: soft blankets, warm lighting, hot drinks, and yummy snacks. There were certain elements of hygge that I already see embedded in my days, and others that I could probably use some more of. As is pointed out in the book, I think this is something that is valued by all, but perhaps prioritized more in some places than others. The Danish having a word for it helps to make it an embedded element in their culture.

It was interesting to me to read the other side of hygge: how some view it as something that is counter to productivity as a society. While I suppose I can see where that argument could come from, I also think it is the exact reason why valuing it is so important. Contrary to many countries around the world, I think we in the US put a little too much focus on productivity. People are afraid to do something just for the sake of enjoying it. Hobbies are turned in to hustles. Leisure is justified by outputting something in your spare time. I am guilty of it too, as evidenced by the existence of this blog—although it is mostly for myself, it is also a way for me to have something to “show” for all the reading that I do.

I suppose that is what I should take as something learned from this book, as the prompt for the month required. A reminder that life is more than productivity, and sometimes it is good to just enjoy the moment as it is.

As for the book itself, I debated about where a rating should fall. I said above, it is a quite pretty book. The interior is as aesthetically pleasing as the cover. There is a nice overview of hygge, and some practical tips for bringing more of it into your life. At the same time, it feels a little choppy and disjointed. There are quotes, stories, recipes, and interviews. Although each has something to offer to the book as a whole, there was not really a flow to how these were presented.

Minka’s Thoughts: “Snuggles and snacks? I’ve definitely got this down. 4 paws.”

Unread Shelf Progress for September

  • Books Read: 2
  • Books Acquired: 5
  • Total Unread Books: 281