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review 2017-07-15 01:01
Murder Past Due by Miranda James
Murder Past Due - Miranda James

Series: Cat in the Stacks #1

 

A well-known author of crime thrillers is murdered in his hometown and Charlie Harris, a librarian with a Maine coon cat called Diesel, feels compelled to help the cops investigate. The murder mystery aspect was okay although definitely still finding its sea legs, but Diesel is what makes me want to continue this series.

 

I read this for booklikes-opoly square Main Street 10 “Read a book that takes place in a small town in the USA”. This murder mystery takes place in a small college town, so with 294 pages it nets me another $6 for my bank balance. My new total is $220. I’ve landed on this square since the shake-up, but since I didn’t complete a book for it I’m not applying the frequent lander multiplier.

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review 2017-07-01 18:29
Mr. Pants: Trick or Feet! - Scott Mccormick, R. H. Lazzell 
Mr. Pants: Trick or Feet! - Scott Mccormick,R. H. Lazzell

I don't understand whether these are cars who are treated like human children, or actual children drawn as cats for some reason. Doesn't matter. I was amused.

Library copy

 

 

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review 2017-07-01 17:45
The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov, Michael Glenny 
The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov,Michael Glenny

inspired "Sympathy for the Devil"

Finally getting to it now that Veronica is spending the summer learning Russian.

***

 

Ban the book; build the buzz.

 

Had it not been suppressed for forty years it wouldn't have become internationally famous. It's a bit of a mess. There's the love story of the Master, a writer, and Margarita. They're both inconveniently and unhappily married to other people, as apparently everyone was in the twenties. Don't worry, the useless-except-as-plot-devices spouses aren't in the book. The Master has written a moving novel about Pontius Pilate which no one will publish, a theme introduced early in the book: it is unacceptable to even consider that Jesus might have been a real person. This novel within the novel presents Pilate as being forced by law and politics to sentence Jesus to death, but far from washing his hands of the job, he strives to save him, to reduce his suffering, and to respect him after the crucifixion. I liked the Master's book and wouldn't have minded more of it.

 

Eventually the book settles down and concentrates on the suffering of the Master, but the first third of the book is devoted to satirizing Moscow's literary and theatrical (think vaudeville) world of the 20s. Not since Dante has a writer so indulged a desire to mock and punish. If these characters aren't real people I hope they're only thinly veiled ones, because otherwise they are too shallow to bother with. Their sins are mostly about getting a better apartment, which in an overcrowded urban environment is no sin at all. 

 

Knowing that this was the inspiration for "Sympathy for the Devil" I had high hopes going in for that character. Jagged and Richards did more and did it better than Bulgakov. He doesn't get to do much, he's just a man who is too old for in unpleasant job, but too decent to leave the hard work to someone else. His staff are all less powerful and less competent, but they seem to derive some pleasure from the business of pointing out folly in humans. Not much fun, really, considering what one might do, but a bit in the end.

 

There is some real fun when we finally get to Margarita: girlfriend gives it all over to being a witch, but it turns out that being a witch is also not as much fun as you might think. Bulgakov 's damned are a parade even he finds to tedious to recount.

 

The book does have a happy ending, for some bleak Russian notion of "happy". No doubt it was fun to write, but the titular characters don't have much agency, and the structure deprives the book of any real momentum until half way through, so even though I did become familiar with Russian names, overall it wasn't very rewarding. I wanted to love it: it features an oversized talking black cat, but even those bits were joyless until the last sixty pages.

 

Maybe the Soviets only suppressed it for being slow, and dull, neither instructive nor entertaining. Or maybe I should quit trying to read Russian fiction, since I never end up liking it. Or both.

 

Library copy

 

Edited to correct typo 

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review 2017-06-26 03:17
CatStronauts: Race to Mars (graphic novel) by Drew Brockington
CatStronauts: Race to Mars - Drew Brockington

The CatStronauts are back and...they're kind of bored. And not really doing much besides accepting awards and going to free lunches and dinners held in their honor. But then the CatStronauts are called back into action. It turns out that several other space programs around the world are planning Mars missions, and the CatStronauts are the last ones to get involved. Will they lose to the CosmoCats or one of the other two groups, or will they triumph and be the first cats to land on Mars?

In some ways, this volume felt a little more solid than CatStronauts: Mission Moon. For example, the internal logic was much better. However, it also had less of the first volume’s silly fun, and the competition between the various space programs made things a little more tense overall. Sometimes the cats had to prioritize between their “race to Mars” timeline and the scientific experiments they wanted to do once they got to Mars, because there wasn’t enough time to get everything done. Brockington included some nice visual jokes and random references in the background (I noticed Star Wars, Star Trek, and maybe Teletubbies), but overall this volume didn’t seem quite as light as the first one, even though there was less at stake.

Each space program seemed to be analogous to a real-life space program, although I wasn’t 100% certain about one of them. The CosmoCats were definitely Russian, and the COOKIE mission (quick and inexpensive) appeared to be Indian. I wasn’t sure about the MEOW mission. Maybe German? I came across another reviewer who seemed to think it was a stand-in for Luxembourg.

Much of the volume was devoted to showing the various space programs preparing to go to Mars. Anytime someone decided to remove something from their Mars mission “To Do” list in the interest of saving time, or pushed their employees too hard, I wondered if and when it would come back to bite them. The CosmoCats were presented as villains,

at least at first

(spoiler show)

. One of the top CosmoCats was especially willing to do whatever he had to in order to be the first to get to Mars, setting a grueling pace for their workers and creating terrible working conditions.

In the end, though, this turned out to be a story about learning to work together.

The supposed villains really weren’t.

(spoiler show)

I loved seeing Pom Pom and Gemelli bonding over their shared love of science, and it was kind of nice to see that even the oh-so-serious Major Meowser wasn’t infallible. I was also glad that Cat-Stro-Bot got to have a role in this story too, although its part in the story became a little chaotic and confusing near the end.

All in all, the first volume was a little more fun than this one, but this one seemed to be a bit more solid and well-thought-out.

A side note: this volume made me realize that I’d made some character design assumptions that weren’t necessarily true. For example, cats whose eyes were drawn so that they had eyelashes were female, while cats whose eyes were just dots were male, meaning that all the CatStronauts were male. Or so I thought. I don’t know if pronouns were used in the first volume and I just missed them, but the second volume definitely referred to Pom Pom using she/her pronouns.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-06-20 01:25
Christmas Wishes
Christmas Wishes - Debbie Macomber

I've had this book on my shelf because one of the stories, Christmas Letters, was part of the Blossom Street Series by Debbie Macomber. I've read it before but it had been so long I couldn't remember it and I am rereading the series starting from the beginning. I thought Christmas Letters was the better story of the two in this book and enjoyed the humor in it. The other story, Rainy Day Kisses was okay but I am not big on romance stories.

 

Mainly, I needed something light to read because I've been feeling bad and today I had another optical migraine so that made reading difficult.  I had to look up the audiobook so I could listen for a while until it passed.  I switched back and forth between reading and listening and actually realized I enjoyed the audiobooks.  This book consists of two stories and the audiobooks are separate.  I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook for Christmas Letters read by Renée Raudman.  She made it much more entertaining with her different voices.  I really felt like I was listening to different people speaking to each other.  The first time I read that book I remember that I didn't especially like it but I really couldn't remember it, which is why I was going to read it again.  I didn't want to skip anything as I reread the Blossom Street Series.  Well, the first time I only read to Hannah's List and never finished that book.  This time I plan to finish it and read the rest of the books in the series.  As I listened to the audiobook for Christmas Letters I started to remember some details but she made it so much funnier.  I will definitely look for more audiobooks read by her.  

 

Christmas Letters is about Kathleen O'Connor, usually called K.O. by her friends, who is currently working as a medical transcriptionist while looking for a job as a publicist. She also writes Christmas letters for people to make a little extra money on the side. She has recently been infuriated by her sister's decision to follow the parenting advice found in a book called The Free Child by Dr. Wynn Jeffries.  Her twin nieces have evolved into terrors and now, her sister has decided to follow his advice to "bury Santa under the sleigh" and isn't planning to have a Christmas tree or Santa this Christmas. K.O. is appalled and when she realizes he lives in her building decides to confront him. She also has an interesting older neighbor who has been taking classes at the community Center and recently took one on unleashing her psychic abilities.  While getting ready to scoop up her cats "business" in the kitty litter she saw the future for K.O.  Specifically, she saw love in her future and decided to set her up.  

 

The other story in this book, Rainy Day Kisses was, eh.  That's my review. for it  Eh.

 

 

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