Monday, August 25, 2014

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

A Doggone Fun Book (Detective Novel with a Twist)

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn is a detective novel with a twist.  Chet and Bernie are partners in the Little Detective Agency.  Each has his strong points. Bernie is the thinker.  Chet is intimidating, if need be, and has a knack for smelling out criminals, literally.  Chet is a dog.  He’s also the narrator of the novel, which makes for a totally unique and fun read.  Chet’s wry commentary is hilarious, like when Bernie asks Chet if he needs to go out after being inside all day.  “Why would that be?” Chet thinks to himself.  “Just because my back teeth were floating?”  The Chet and Bernie mysteries are a series of books, Dog On It being the first volume.  In this particular assignment they’ve taken on, Bernie and Chet are hired to find a missing teenager. The duo work diligently together to solve the case. All the while, Chet’s perspective of the human and canine worlds kept me smiling throughout the book.  If you’re looking for a fun, light read this may be the book for you.  You might look at your pet in a whole new way afterwards and wonder—Just what is he thinking about?

Happy Reading,


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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  I am. (Classics)

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf is about one day in the life of a woman getting ready for a party she is hosting—or so I thought. What I found out is that only two small instances in the book are devoted to Mrs. Dalloway’s party preparations.  Her venture to a shop in London to pick up flowers is how the book begins, and offers a most famous literary line. “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”   The other party “fuss” is when Clarissa Dalloway sits down and calmly mends the green dress she is planning to wear to the evening event. 

So, if we’re really not talking about the party, what’s happening the rest of the time, you ask? Well, the book follows the activities, thoughts and memories of people who in some way touch Clarissa’s life during the day.  We tiptoe into the minds and lives of various people such as an acquaintance she passes on a park bench who suffers from PSTD after the recent Great War. We discover the struggles of a former love interest who comes back to London, the ambitions of her daughter Elizabeth, and strained irritations of Elizabeth’s underprivileged history tutor, among others.  And all these thoughts are revealed in a sort of stream of consciousness as the characters float suddenly in and out of the pages in a convoluted river of 191 chapterless pages. 

Try as I might, I was not enthralled or even mildly interested in this book. And although it was not a big book, it sure felt like it. It dragged on and on. Woolf’s writing style seemed like an experiment, the way the thoughts and actions of people drifted in and out without pauses. Maybe this unique style is precisely what gives the book its literary distinction, but for me, it was like a game of “Wheel of Fortune” without indications of breaks between the words in the phrase.  And forget about even trying to buy a vowel to clarify things a bit. It was a game of “Jeopardy” without the benefits of categories. It was “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” without a lifeline.  This book was a cognitive workout—just attempting to decipher what she was trying to convey.  Woolf’s confusing, meandering writing style had me re-reading many lines over and over. Sometimes I just scratched my head and thought who or what is she talking about?

It was definitely not a normal plot-driven book that feeds you one chapter at a time, leading you somewhere, anywhere. Woolf didn’t make me care about the lives of the people who seemingly drifted in and out.  I wasn’t even moved at the dramatic event played out in one of those lives of which we see snippets.

I’m sorry to present such a negative review.  This book begs the question, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”  And my answer is:  “I am.”  I am afraid I didn’t like her style. But if you’re ready for a “Moby-like” challenge, give it a whirl and let me know where I went wrong. 

Happy Reading,


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Monday, August 4, 2014

The Classic Reading Challenge

Kicking It with the Classics (Reading List)

If you’re just tuning in, you may not have noticed that every so often I toss in reviews of classic books.  My interest in classics dates back to ninth-grade English class with Mr. Haynes.  At the end of the school year Mr. Haynes gave us a reading list for summer break.  Most of the books on the list were classics. For some reason I kept the list and years later after high school, I looked at it and decided, what the heck, let’s give this thing a whirl.  Slowly I started reading the books and marking them off.  Each year I squeezed in a few classics between my other reading. Weird?  Maybe.  But I was curious, and it turns out they’re classics for a good reason.  So now, when some of those books are mentioned here or there, I now know what they’re talking about—without looking at Wikipedia.  As a bonus, it’s helped me in crossword puzzles too. :)

It’s true, some of the classics are a little more difficult to read. The older, descriptive writing keeps me on my toes.  Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Robert Louis Stevenson, and others took a little more time to read, but the more I read their styles, the more I liked them, and the easier it got. 

I don’t know what makes a book officially a “classic,” but all the books on this list have enjoyed immense popularity—regardless of when they were written. Some are older classics; some are more modern classics.  Some should probably fall off the list. Some aren’t even books; they’re plays. Some are big old whoppers while others are short novellas. The list is ever-evolving and in no way complete. Over the years it’s grown as I’ve gathered titles from other classic lists and added them to mine. It gets a little dicey when popular authors have written numerous classics.  Sometimes I haven’t listed them all.  A true and complete classic list would probably wrap around the world a few times.  Below is the list I have today.  Ask me again tomorrow, and I’m sure it will be bigger. I’ve marked the ones that I’ve read in red and a placed a link to the ones I’ve reviewed.  See how many you’ve read.  You may surprise yourself

Have fun!
Agee, James - A Death in the Family
Alcott, Louisa May - Little Women
Aldrich, Bess Streeter - A Lantern in Her Hand
Aldrich, Bess Streeter - A White Bird Flying
Aldrich, Bess Streeter - Spring Came on Forever
Anderson, Sherwood - Winesburg, Ohio
Angelou, Maya - I Know Why Caged Birds Sing
Anouilh, Jean - Becket
Anouilh, Jean - The Lark
Arnold, Elliot - Blood Brother
Asimov, Isaac - Fantastic Voyage
Asimov, Isaac - The Foundation Trilogy
Atwood, Margaret - The Handmaid's Tale
Austen, Jane – Emma
Austen, Jane – Mansfield Park
Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane – Sense and Sensibilities
Bagnold, Enid - National Velvet
Baldwin, James - Notes of a Native Son
Balzac, Honore de - Pere Goriot
Barrett, William - Lilies of the Field
Barrie, James - The Admirable Crichton
Bellamy, Edward - Looking Backward
Benet, Stephen Vincent - John Brown's Body
Bonnet, Theodore - The Mudlark
Bradbury, Ray - Fahrenheit 451
Bradbury, Ray - The Martian Chronicles
Bradbury, Ray - Something Wicked This Way Comes
Brown, Dee - Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Brown, Joe David - Paper Moon
Buck, Pearl - Imperial Woman
Buck, Pearl - The Good Earth
Bulgakov, Mikhail - The Master and Margarita
Burdick, Eugene and Harvey Wheeler - Fail-Safe
Burgess, Anthony – A Clockwork Orange
Burnett, Frances Hodgson - The Secret Garden

Burroughs, Edgar Rice - Tarzan of the Apes
Cain, James M. - The Postman Always Rings Twice Click here to read review.
Caldwell, Taylor - Captains and the Kings
Caldwell, Taylor - Dear and Glorious Physician
Camus, Albert - The Plague
Camus, Albert  - The Stranger
Carroll, Lewis - Alice's Adventure in Wonderland
Carroll, Lewis - Alice Through the Looking Glass
Carson, Rachel - The Sea Around Us
Cather, Willa - Death Comes to the Archbishop
Cather, Willa - My Antonia
Cather, Willa - O Pioneers
Cather, Willa - One of Ours
Cather, Willa - Shadows on the Rock
Cervantes, Miguel de – Don Quixote
Chopin, Kate - The Awakening  
Clark, Walter Van Tilburg - The Ox-Bow Incident
Clark, Walter Van Tilburg - The Track of the Cat
Cleary, Jon - The Sundowners
Collins, Wilkie - The Moonstone
Collins, Wilkie – The Woman in White
Conrad, Joseph - The Heart of Darkness
Cooper, James Fenimore - The Deerslayer
Cooper, James Fenimore, - The Last of the Mohicans
Costain, Thomas - The Silver Chalice
Crane, Stephen - The Red Badge of Courage
Crichton, Michael - The Andromeda Strain
Cronin, A. J. - The Keys to the Kingdom
Dana, Richard, - Two Years Before the Mast
Day, Clarence - Life with Mother
Defoe, Daniel -  Moll Flanders
Defoe, Daniel -  Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles - David Copperfield
Dickens, Charles - Great Expectations
Dickens, Charles - Oliver Twist
Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities
Dinesen, Isak  (Real name, Karen von Blixen-Finecke) – Out of Africa
Dos Passos, John - Manhattan Transfer
Dos Passos, John -  U.S.A. Trilogy
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor -  Crime and Punishment
Douglas, Lloyd. C., -  The Robe
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan - The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan - The Return of Sherlock Holmes
Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
Dreiser, Theodore - Sister Carrie
Du Maurier, Daphne - Jamaica Inn
Dumas, Alexander - Camille
Dumas, Alexander - The Count of Monte Cristo
Dumas, Alexander - The Three Musketeers
Ibsen, Henrik -  Peer Gynt
Edmonds, Walter - Drums Along the Mohawk
Eliot, George – Adam Bede
Eliot, George – Daniel Deronda
Eliot, George - Middlemarch
Eliot, George - The Mill on the Floss
Eliot, T. S. - Murder in the Cathedral
Ellison, Ralph – Invisible Man
Esquivel, Laura - Like Water for Chocolate
Faulkner, William - Absalom! Absalom!
Faulkner, William - Intruder in the Dust
Faulkner, William – The Sound and the Fury
Ferber, Edna - Cimarron
Ferber, Edna - Giant
Ferber, Edna - Show Boat
Ferber, Edna - So Big
Fitzgerald, F. Scott - Tender is the Night
Forbes, Esther - Johnny Tremain
Forbes, Kathryn - Mama's Bank Account
Forester, C.S. -  Beat to Quarters
Forester, C.S. - Captain Horatio Hornblower
Forester, C.S. - The African Queen
Forrester, C.S. - The Good Shepherd
Forster, E.M. - Howard's End
Forster, E.M. – A Passage to India
Forster, E.M. – A Room with A View
Fowles, John – The French Lieutenant’s Woman
Frank, Anne - The Diary of a Young Girl
Frank, Pat, Alas - Babylon
Franklin, Benjamin - Ben Franklin Autobiography
Freedman, Benedict & Nancy - Mrs. Mike
Galsworthy, John - Forsyte Saga
Garcia Márquez, Gabriel – One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gilbreth, Frank B. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey -  Belles on
Their Toes
Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
Goldman, William – The Princess Bride
Goudge, Elizabeth - Green Dolphin Street
Green, Hannah - I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
Greene, Graham - A Burnt-Out Case
Greene, Graham - The Power and the Glory
Griffin, John Howard - Black Like Me
Haggard, H. Rider - King Solomon's Mines
Haley, Alex - Roots
Hammett, Dashiell - The Thin Man
Hammett, Dashiell - The Maltese Falcon
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Hart, Moss & Kaufman, George - The Man Who Came to Dinner
Hart, Moss & Kaufman, George - You Can't Take It With You
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The House of Seven Gables
Heinlein, Robert - Stranger in a Strange Land
Hellman, Lillian - The Children's Hour
Hemingway, Ernest - For Whom the Bell Tolls
Hemingway, Ernest - The Green Hills of Africa
Hemingway, Ernest - The Sun Also Rises

Hersey, John - A Bell for Adano
Hersey, John - Hiroshima
Hersey, John - The Child Buyer
Herzog, Maurice - Annapurna
Heyerdahl, Thor - Aku-Aku
Heyerdahl, Thor - Kon-Tiki
Hilton, James - Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Hilton, James - Random Harvest
Hinton, S.E. – Rumble Fish
Hinton, S.E. - That Was Then, This is Now
Hinton, S.E. - The Outsiders
Homer - Iliad
Homer - Odyssey
Hudson, W.H. - Green Mansions
Hugo, Victor - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hugo, Victor - Les Miserables
Hunt, Irene - Across Five Aprils
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
Huxley, Aldous - Crome Yellow
Ibsen, Henrik - Peer Gynt
Irving, Washington - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Jackson, Helen Hunt – Ramona
Jackson, Shirley - The Lottery
Jackson, Shirley - We Have Always Lived in the Castle
James, Henry - Daisy Miller
James, Henry - Turn of the Screw
Jerome, Jerome K. - Three Men in a Boat
Joyce, James - Ulysses
Kaufman & Hart - The Man Who Came to Dinner
Kaufman & Hart - Once in a Lifetime
Kaufman & Hart - You Can't Take It With You
Kesey, Ken - One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
Keyes, Daniel - Flowers for Algernon
Kipling, Rudyard - Captains Courageous
Kipling, Rudyard - Kim
Kipling, Rudyard - The Man Who Would Be King
Kleist, Heinrich von - The Earthquake in Chile
Knebel, Fletcher - Night of Camp David
Knebel, Fletcher - Seven Days in May
Knowles, John - A Separate Peace
La Farge, Oliver - Laughing Boy
Lederer, William & E. Burdick - The Ugly American
Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird
Leroux, Gaston - Phantom of the Opera
Levin, Ira - The Stepford Wives
Lewis, C.S. – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
Lewis, Sinclair - Main Street
Lindbergh, Charles - The Spirit of St. Louis
Lipsyte, Robert - The Contender
Llewellyn, Richard - How Green Was My Valley
London, Jack - Call of the Wild
MacInnes, Helen - Above Suspicion
Mailer, Norman - The Executioner's Song
Malamud, Bernard - The Assistant
Maugham, W. Somerset - The Moon and Sixpence
McCullers, Carson - The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
McCullers, Carson - The Ballad of the Sad Café
Melville, Herman - Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman - Benito Cereno
Michener, James - Bridges at Toko-Ri
Michener, James - Centennial
Michener, James - Hawaii
Michener, James - Iberia
Michener, James - Sayonara
Michener, James - Tales of the South Pacific
Miller, Arthur - All My Sons
Miller, Arthur - A View From the Bridge
Moody, Ralph - Home Ranch
Moody, Ralph - Little Britches
Moody, Ralph - Men of the Family
Neihardt, John - Black Elk Speaks
Nabokov, Vladimir - Lolita
Nordhoff, Charles & Hall, J. - Men Against the Sea
Nordhoff, Charles & Hall, J. - Mutiny on the Bounty
Nordhoff, Charles & Hall, J. - Pitcairn's Island
Norris, Frank - Octopus
O'Neill, Eugene - Long Day's Journey into Night
O'Neill, Eugene - The Iceman Commeth
Orwell, George - 1984
Orwell, George - Animal Farm
Parks, Gordon - Choice of Weapons
Parks, Gordon - The Learning Tree
Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago
Pennington, James - Fugitive Blacksmith
Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allan – Tales of Edgar Allan Poe
Porter, Katherine Anne - Ship of Fools
Portis, Charles - True Grit
Proulx, E. Annie - The Shipping News
Rand, Ayn – Atlas Shrugged
Rattigan, Terence - The Winslow Boy
Remarque, Erich Maria - All Quiet on the Western Front
Renault, Mary - The Bull From the Sea
Renault, Mary - The King Must Die
Richter, Conrad - Light in the Forest
Rinehart, Mary Roberts - The Circular Staircase
Roberts, Kenneth - Northwest Passage
Rostand, Edmund - Cyrano de Bergerac
Sabatini, Raphael - Scaramouche
Salinger, J.D. - Catcher in the Rye
Sandburg, Carl - Abe Lincoln: Prairie Years
Saroyan, William - Human Comedy
Saroyan, William - My Name is Aram
Schaefer, Jack - Shane
Scott, Sir Walter - Ivanhoe
Scott, Sir Walter - Quentin Durward
Sewell, Anna - Black Beauty
Shakespeare, William - As You Like It
Shakespeare, William - Hamlet
Shakespeare, William – King Lear
Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
Shakespeare, William – Merchant of Venice
Shakespeare, William – Midsummer Night’s Dream
Shakespeare, William – Much Ado About Nothing
Shakespeare, William - Othello
Shakespeare, William – Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare, William - The Taming of the Shrew
Shakespeare, William – Any Others Not Mentioned Here
Shaw, George Bernard - Caesar and Cleopatra
Shute, Nevil - On the Beach
Shute, Nevil - A Town Like Alice

Sienkiewicz, Henryk - Quo Vadis
Skinner, Cornelia & Kimbrough, Emily - Our Hearts Were Young and Gay
Smith, Dodie - I Capture the Castle
Smith, Betty - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Steinbeck, John - Cannery Row
Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath
Steinbeck, John - The Pearl
Steinbeck, John - The Red Pony
Steinbeck, John - The Winter of Our Discontent
Steuber, William - Us Incorporated
Stevens, James - Paul Bunyan
Stevenson, Robert Louis - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde & Other Short Stories
Stevenson, Robert Louis - Kidnapped
Stevenson, Robert Louis - The Master of Ballantrae
Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island
Stoker, Bram - Dracula
Stone, Irving - The Ecstasy and the Agony
Stone, Irving - Depths of Glory
Stone, Irving - Love is Eternal
Stone, Irving - The President's Lady
Strout, Elizabeth - Olive Kitteridge
Stowe, Harriet - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Swarthout, Glendon - Bless the Beasts and Children
Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels
Synge, J.M. - Riders to the Sea
Tarkington, Booth - The Magnificent Ambersons
Tarkington, Booth - Monsieur Beaucaire
Tarkington, Booth - Penrod
Thackeray, William - Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry - Walden
Thurber, James - Thurber Carnival
Tolkien, J.R.R. - Lord of the Rings
Tolkien, J.R.R. - The Hobbit
Tolstoy, Leo - Anna Karenina
Tolstoy, Leo – War and Peace
Toole, John Kennedy - A Confederacy of Dunces
Twain, Mark –The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Twain, Mark - The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
Twain, Mark – A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Twain, Mark - Life on the Mississippi
Twain, Mark – The Prince and the Pauper
Ullman, James Ramsey - Banner in the Sky
Updike, John - Rabbit Is Rich
Updike, John - The Witches of Eastwick
Uris, Leon - Exodus
Uris, Leon - QB VII
Verne, Jules - An Antarctic Mystery
Verne, Jules - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Verne, Jules - Journey to the Center of the Earth
Vonnegut, Kurt - Slaughterhouse-Five
Walker, Alice – The Color Purple
Walpole, Hugh - Jeremy
Watson, Winifred - Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Waugh, Evelyn - Brideshead Revisited
Waugh, Evelyn - The Loved One
Wells, H.G. - The Invisible Man
Wells, H.G. - The Island of Dr. Moreau
Wells, H.G. - The Time Machine
Wells, H.G. - The War of the Worlds
Wescott, Glenway - The Pilgrim Hawk
West, Jessamyn - Friendly Persuasion
Wharton, Edith – Age of Innocence
Wharton, Edith – The House of Mirth
Whitely, Opal - The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow
Whitman, Walt – Leaves of Grass
Wibberley, Leonard - The Mouse that Roared
Wilde, Oscar - The Canterville Ghost
Wilder, Thornton - Our Town
Wilkerson, The Rev. David - The Cross and the Switchblade
Williams, Tennessee - A Streetcar Named Desire
Wodehouse, P.G. - The Code of the Woosters
Wojciechowska, Maia - Don't Play Dead Before You Have To
Wolfe, Tom - Bonfire of the Vanities
Woolf, Virginia - A Room of One's Own
Wouk, Herman - The Caine Mutiny
Wren, Christopher - Beau Geste
Wright, Richard - Black Boy
Wyss, Johann - The Swiss Family Robinson