The Da Vinci Code

img_4905Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Date Read: June 9 to 30, 2020

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars

I admit that I am a little behind with this one. I was intrigued by the controversy when the movie came out, but that was when I was in college and not quite ready to commit to do a ton of extra reading for pleasure. So I saw the movie, and mentally shelved the book as to read. Fast forward a few years, I’m browsing deals on kindle books, and there it is: this book that I have been intending to read. Serendipity! I added it to my kindle shelf and continued to browse. That was almost 10 years ago now, and I am just now getting around to it, thanks to the June prompt from the Unread Shelf Project which told me to pick a book from a series.

Now here’s the thing: I do not own a ton of series books, and most of the ones I do own, I have already read. Despite my very lengthy to read list, I only had a couple to choose from; and I argued with myself about which of them should actually “count.” Does it still count as reading a book in a series if you have no intention of reading any of the other books in the series? Well… ultimately, with the coaxing of a friend, I decided yes. She insisted that the book was worth it, and that it worked as a standalone if I chose not to continue with the other books… and that I did not have to read the book that actually comes before it. Then she offered to lend me the rest of the series if needed. So here I am.

After all that went in to the decision to read this one, I am coming in right at the last moment to finish this within the month of June. I really feel there is no good excuse for that, since although this book is a bit lengthy, it is a relatively quick and easy read. While I will say that overall I enjoyed this read, I do find myself a bit conflicted. It’s obvious that this is written for mass appeal, and meant to be a fast paced page-turner. There are some aspects of this that feel meticulously researched; at the same time, I feel like we are getting a very surface level understanding of something that is part truth and part conspiracy theory. I enjoyed the idea of a scavenger hunt for the Holy Grail, and the concept behind the grail being Mary Magdalene. The ideas are definitely interesting, and some pieces potentially plausible, but the idea of taking this as fact is a bit far fetched.

There was one major issue here for me though: for being a novel purported to be about the sacred feminine, it is pretty anti-feminist. I imagine that much of this relates to the fact that it is a book in a series with a male protagonist, who needs to come through as the “star” of the show. At the same time, I felt myself quite frustrated with the treatment of Sophie’s character. Most obviously, Sophie is professional code breaker, and yet she needs the help of Langdon to figure out the most basic of codes left for her by her grandfather? Seems a little ridiculous. Throughout the novel, she’s primarily used as a plot device to allow for lengthy historical explanations. She could have been so much more.

As for the remainder of the series, I think I’m going to pass. I am not crazy about the trope of the brilliant leading man who continuously finds himself involved in conundrums where he is required to solve mysteries with a new beautiful woman who is obviously attracted to him. Does that seem oddly specific? Perhaps. I have no doubt that the remaining books in the series are entertaining—but I think that I will find my reading time used better elsewhere.

Minka’s Thoughts: “Are you sure this is a book? It doesn’t look like a book. It doesn’t taste like a book. Do I give paws if it’s not a book?”

Unread Shelf Progress for June

  • Books Read: 2
  • Books Acquired: 9 books, 1 found not previously counted
  • Total Unread Books: 262 books

Penguins and Other Seabirds

img_3709Book: Penguins and Other Seabirds by Matt Sewell

Date Read: March 23 to 24, 2020

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars

If you have been around Books On My Cat awhile, you may have noticed my affinity for penguins (especially when it comes to children’s literature). While this does not quite follow in that line, this charming little book would be a delight for penguin aficionado. It caught my eye in the discount section of a new bookstore I visited some time back, and I decided that it definitely needed a good home.

I read through this one quickly, as it is not really written to be a lengthy endeavor. It would make a nice “coffee table book”—something to set out and peruse at your leisure. The book is informational, but written much more casually than any sort of text or nature guide. There is a relatively short blurb for each bird, accompanied by a watercolor drawing. I definitely found the information shared to be interesting, but really enjoyed each of the drawings. They were well done and, well, delightful. Each was a simple and straightforward portrayal, although still managing to include a good amount of detail.

I would also like to share a laughable moment that I had while reading. As I mentioned, I thought the drawings were well done, and took note of several throughout. Midway through the book, I was a bit discouraged to find one that did not seem to be done so well: the Crested Auklet. It looked a bit like a cartoon character, with the beak bent into a sort of smile and eyes that seemed much too simplified. I decided that I needed to check out the actual bird for comparison, and to my surprise, the drawing had been spot on!

Minka’s Thoughts: “Do you think penguins would want to play with me? Maybe the hopper ones? Can we hop together? 4 paws if we can play!”

How to Yoga

img_0651I discovered ChristieCreative a few months back when I was looking to add some inspiration into my Instagram feed. Her illustrations are beautiful, and come with the perfect mix of good tips and humor. It was just what I was looking to add in to my scroll of friends, books, and cats.

I have practiced yoga for about four years now, but have mostly focused on the physical aspects of practice. In the beginning, this was a necessity– many of the poses were very difficult for me, and so much seemed inaccessible. As I grew into my practice and realized I am capable of more than I imagined, I developed my own interpretation of yoga philosophy based on my experiences of the mental aspects and benefits I associated with my practice. However, I have never really looked into true yoga philosophy beyond what has been incorporated into the studio classes I have taken.

To be honest, I bought this book on a whim, while scrolling through Instagram to put off getting out of bed one morning. I had seen posts about it before, but something in that moment told me that I should buy it. I am so happy that I did! This was exactly the introduction to yoga philosophy that I needed, providing a basic outline and information to get my feet wet. To my delight, much of this is in line with the thinking that I had come to on my own. I appreciated the personal connections and tips throughout the book, which made the concepts and philosophies more accessible to me as a beginner. The illustrations are lovely, and provide a nice balance to the text. I found some inspiration for my practice that I did not know I needed, and will definitely be referring back here as I continue my yoga journey.

Girl with a Pearl Earring

img_0339Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Date Read: May 1 to May 27, 2019

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars

This book was my pick for May’s Unread Shelf Project prompt: bought because of the adaptation. I was not exactly sure how I should define this one, so I looked through my to read list for books that had adaptations. Generally speaking, I like to pair book and movie adaptations. If I see a movie I like and find out there is a book, I add it to my list; similarly, I usually make a point to see movies based on books that I’ve read. This was one that has been on my list the longest: I found out this was a book while renting the movie shortly after it came out in 2003. I purchased it for my kindle a few years later, but never seemed to get around to reading it for some reason.

I like the idea behind the novel: historical fiction meant to touch on the mystery of a painting. The painting itself is intriguing, and coupling that with a background that is generally unknown makes this a perfect subject matter. The writing was excellent, and I found Griet’s perspective interesting. However, despite enjoying the book, I felt the plot was a bit lackluster. Not much happens, there is very little character development, and while the mystery of the painting source is solved, we still do not get much of a picture of the artist.

Griet’s experience is treated as scandalous, but it is hardly that. She is merely trapped into the drama of a higher class that is unable to take blame for their own actions. With the whole novel being from her perspective, it’s difficult to say whether the intimacy she describes is truly present. Of course, I imagine that there must be some level of intimacy reached between painter and subject, but Griet perhaps exaggerates it, or simply wishes it to be something deeper. There is no doubt from her words that she has feelings for the painter, but there is nothing in his actions that really suggests he sees her as anything more than an assistant and model. Griet seems to find some resolution in her reflections on that time after Vermeer’s death, but then this is thrown into confusion and further mystery with the revelation of the letter and Vermeer’s request for the return of the painting.

Despite some issues with the plot, I did enjoy the artistic aspects included: Griet’s descriptions of the paintings to her father, the references throughout the book to other works by Vermeer. More than once I was drawn to seek out the paintings described. I also really enjoyed the discussion of color, including the actual making of colors for the painting and Griet’s discovery of color as something deeper than she imagined.

Boris’s thoughts: “Sounds a bit like a snoozer. I like snoozing. 3 paws.”

The Little World of Liz Climo

img_0393The Little World of Liz Climo by Liz Climo

This is another book from someone that I discovered on Instagram. While I do not remember exactly how I originally came across her work, it was instant live. It’s cute and quirky and always makes me smile. I love the simplicity in style, combined with the wit in each character. I knew that she had published books, but had never really sought them out. I stumbled across this at a bookstore and decided that I needed it on my shelf. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more of here books!

This a perfect little book for when you need to take a break– whether that is from some heavier reading, or taking a step back from a rough day. The problems of the animals in Liz Climo’s world are perfectly balanced between real humanity and imagined animal issues. Despite having followed her online for some time, I found that there was plenty of content here that I had not seen before. One more thing this book is perfect for? A blog post in a pinch, when you have been feeling too busy and tired to put mental energy into writing.

Boris’s thoughts: “I think that bear and I could be friends. 4 paws.”

Cinnamon

img_8521-1Book: Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman

Something that I could not quite put my finger on has drawn me to this book a few times when I have perused the children’s section of my local bookstore. I suppose it is most likely the beautiful cover, combined with an affinity for Neil Gaiman’s work in general. Despite picking it up a few times, I never actually read through the book until recently.

I always buy a book for each of the kids at our extended family’s Christmas party, and finally decided to pick this one up while shopping for them. I loved the simplicity of this book. It has the feeling of a folktale, although I am not sure if it has any basis in the actual mythology of India. Cinnamon is a princess who is blind and also does not speak. Her parents have offered many riches to anyone who is able to get her to speak, but all have failed. A tiger steps in to do the work that humans have failed to complete. In addition to an enjoyable story, I find Divya Srinivasan’s illustrations striking. The colors are bright and bold; the style is simplistic but full of detail.

Boris’s thoughts: “I could be a tiger. Majestic and all. Roar. Although I don’t know why the tiger would WANT more humans to talk. 3 paws.”

Am I There Yet?

img_5996 Book: Am I There Yet? by Mari Andrew

Date Read: April 1, 2018 to April 4, 2018

Rating: 5 (of 5) stars

I discovered Mari Andrew’s Instagram account (bymariandrew) a few years ago, and immediately fell in love with it. It was some time around when she completed her first 365 days of illustrations. There was something about her illustrations that spoke to my heart, and I went back to look at all of her previous posts (and so now have no recollection of when I actually starting following her). Her illustrations are thoughtful and honest; it’s obvious that she puts her heart (and heartache) into her work. She bravely shares her experiences and herself in a way that makes the viewer (and now reader) feel like they know her personally, even if just a little bit.

I wanted to share this about her artwork first for a few reasons (first of all being why someone who has never met an author might feel compelled to refer to them on a first name basis). Second, to say that Mari’s writing is very much like her art. She makes you feel. Although the experiences she shares have been quite different from my own, there is a universality in the emotion that her writing evokes. Her essays are perfectly paired with her artwork to lead you through the story of each chapter, and the “Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey” to where she finds herself now. This is a book that I definitely plan to revisit, and absolutely will be sharing with others.

As a final note on the personable feelings of Mari’s art and writing, I want to share one more (perhaps unusual) feeling after reading this book: proud. Although I do not personally know Mari, I feel like I have followed her along for a chunk of this journey, and am proud of her accomplishment in creating this book. Even if I have only participated through being one of the thousands reading and “liking” her online posts, I have experienced an emotional journey of my own. I think that is the magic of Mari’s work, and I feel honored to have been able to share in that, even if from a great distance. Thank you for your work, Mari. I look forward to seeing where you go next!

Boris’s thoughts: “Great snuggle book, since you want to read it all at once! (Just make sure you feed me first.) 4 paws.”