Mini Review: Cat Detective by Meg Golding

Cat Detective by Meg Golding
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Website
Publication Date: April 11, 2018
Source: Gift

From what I can tell, no official synopsis or information on this little zine exists, but let me tell you — it’s amazing. My boyfriend picked this up for me at a zine festival he went to a few weeks ago and I smiled from the first panel until the end. What would happen if a cat were a detective? Well… a lot of sleeping on the job, some poorly-timed naps, and a lot of playing with things that shouldn’t be played with.

I wasn’t going to write a review of a zine — after all, it’s only twelve pages — but this was just so cute that I had to let the world know it exists. I couldn’t find anywhere to buy the actual zine, but I linked to the website so that you can check it out if you’d like!

Do you read zines? What’s the cutest thing you’ve read recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini DNF reviews: Why We Sleep & The Last Time I Lied

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
Rating: n/a
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source: Borrowed

The first sleep book by a leading scientific expert—Professor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab—reveals his groundbreaking exploration of sleep, explaining how we can harness its transformative power to change our lives for the better.

Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive.

An explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.

Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses. Clear-eyed, fascinating, and accessible, Why We Sleep is a crucial and illuminating book.

The synopsis of this book is going to be longer than my review because…

DNF @ 1%.

This is my first DNF in probably at least a year and I don’t even know if I got far enough into this book to really consider it a true DNF. I was listening to the audiobook and the narrator was spouting off all these statistics about how if you don’t sleep enough, you’re going to get cancer or die in a car accident or just generally shave years off your life… and it was too much for me. I have such trouble sleeping and it stressed me out so much that I had to stop. Five minutes in. Sorry but also not.


The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Rating: n/a
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: July 3, 2018
Source: Book of the Month

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

DNF @ page 75.

In case you didn’t know, I work in a dermatology office. The main thing we do is skin cancer removal, so we get a lot of cranky elderly people coming through the door. One day, a few weeks ago, I was covering the front desk because someone was out sick. I was checking out a very cranky woman who’d just finished a several-hour-long surgery to remove skin cancer from her ear. As I often do when someone is cranky, I tried to make polite conversation.

Me: “Oh, you’re reading The Last Time I Lied! I got that book a couple months ago but haven’t read it yet. How is it?”
Cranky Patient: “IT’S TERRIBLE!!!”
Me: “I’m so sorry to hear that! What don’t you like about it?”
Cranky Patient: “It’s TERRIBLE! It’s slow and repetitive and TERRIBLE!!!”
Me: “Hmm, wow. Okay.”

So, needless to say, I was a little nervous to start reading this. I wanted to love it because first of all, it sounds good, and second of all, the author is from my town! And my town really isn’t that big, so I could see him every week at the grocery store and not even know it. He could be the mysterious neighbor that I’ve never seen even though I’ve lived in this house for a year and a half. Who even knows.

But you know what? That cranky patient… she was kind of right. The book is slow and repetitive and, honestly, kind of terrible. It took me five days to get to page 75 and absolutely killed my love of reading. I might pick it back up at some point, but for now… I’m done.


Have you read either of these books? Should I give them another try?
Let’s talk in the comments!


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Mini non-fiction reviews: We Were Eight Years in Power, Fascism: A Warning, and My Own Words

We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source: Borrowed

“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. Now Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.”

But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period–and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation’s old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective–the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.

We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates’s iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including Fear of a Black President, The Case for Reparations and The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration, along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates’s own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment.

This is a very, very important book. It’s a well-written collection of essays and commentary from each of Obama’s eight years in power. It made me very sad. I could’ve cried. If I’m being perfectly honest, I might’ve actually cried. I kind of don’t want to live in this world anymore after finishing.

Instead of reading a physical copy, I listened to the audiobook. Usually I prefer that for non-fiction, but I think I’d actually recommend reading this over listening to it. Highly recommended, but if you’re dissatisfied with the current state of America, prepare for your heart to hurt.


Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Source: Borrowed

A Fascist, observes Madeleine Albright, “is someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever other means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have.”

The twentieth century was defined by the clash between democracy and Fascism, a struggle that created uncertainty about the survival of human freedom and left millions dead. Given the horrors of that experience, one might expect the world to reject the spiritual successors to Hitler and Mussolini should they arise in our era. In Fascism: A Warning, Madeleine Albright draws on her experiences as a child in war-torn Europe and her distinguished career as a diplomat to question that assumption.

Fascism, as she shows, not only endured through the twentieth century but now presents a more virulent threat to peace and justice than at any time since the end of World War II.  The momentum toward democracy that swept the world when the Berlin Wall fell has gone into reverse.  The United States, which historically championed the free world, is led by a president who exacerbates division and heaps scorn on democratic institutions.  In many countries, economic, technological, and cultural factors are weakening the political center and empowering the extremes of right and left.  Contemporary leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are employing many of the tactics used by Fascists in the 1920s and 30s.

Fascism: A Warning is a book for our times that is relevant to all times.  Written  by someone who has not only studied history but helped to shape it, this call to arms teaches us the lessons we must understand and the questions we must answer if we are to save ourselves from repeating the tragic errors of the past.

This is going to be a very mini mini-review because I’m not really sure what to say about it. I think that this is a great primer for anybody who’s interested in the history of fascism throughout the world. It’s an important book to read at this point in time, though it’s not really a warning as much as it is some comparisons between our current political climate and some previous fascist governments. I also felt that, rather than being a really coherent book, it was more like a collection of articles. That’s not necessarily a problem, I guess, but I was expecting a little bit more from this.


My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source: Borrowed

The first book from Ruth Bader Ginsburg since becoming a Supreme Court Justice in 1993—a witty, engaging, serious, and playful collection of writings and speeches from the woman who has had a powerful and enduring influence on law, women’s rights, and popular culture.

My Own Words offers Justice Ginsburg on wide-ranging topics, including gender equality, the workways of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution. Throughout her life Justice Ginsburg has been (and continues to be) a prolific writer and public speaker. This book’s sampling is selected by Justice Ginsburg and her authorized biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams. Justice Ginsburg has written an introduction to the book, and Hartnett and Williams introduce each chapter, giving biographical context and quotes gleaned from hundreds of interviews they have conducted. This is a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of America’s most influential women.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is such an interesting and inspiring person. I was really excited to read what I thought was going to be her autobiography, but this is actually more of a brief history of her life (very interesting) interspersed with some of her speeches and legal opinions (less interesting). The book can be a bit repetitive, but it’s still a worthy read if you’re interested in RBG and the Supreme Court.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!


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Mini politics reviews: The Audacity of Hope, Fantasyland, & How Democracies Die

In case you hadn’t already realized based on my offhand comments and my previous political reviews, I’m pretty liberal. This should be even more clear given that today I’m reviewing one book by Barack Obama and two that were written as a reaction to Trump’s presidency.

One of my goals for 2018 is to read more non-fiction, and it turns out that my library has a really great politics section! (I have holds on so many other books, too. I actually need to calm down a little bit with the library books!) Without further ado, I’m bringing you mini-reviews of three political titles.


The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: October 17, 2006
Source: Borrowed

The Audacity of Hope is Barack Obama’s call for a new kind of politics—a politics that builds upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans. Lucid in his vision of America’s place in the world, refreshingly candid about his family life and his time in the Senate, Obama here sets out his political convictions and inspires us to trust in the dogged optimism that has long defined us and that is our best hope going forward.

I have a soft spot for Barack Obama. I campaigned for him in 2008. I voted for him in 2008 and 2012. Of all the presidents we’ve had during my lifetime, he’s my favorite. I figured that with all of the nonfiction I’ve been reading this year, I should read The Audacity of Hope.

It was fine, I guess, but it wasn’t really what I was expecting. Obama is intelligent, he’s inspiring, he’s a good writer… but it seemed like he was trying awfully hard not to offend anybody and ended up really saying very little. I don’t know that I would necessarily recommend this book to anybody but diehard Obama fans, but I’m willing to take a look at his other books.


Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Source: Borrowed

How did we get here?

In this sweeping, eloquent history of America, Kurt Andersen shows that what’s happening in our country today—this post-factual, “fake news” moment we’re all living through—is not something new, but rather the ultimate expression of our national character. America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by hucksters and their suckers. Fantasy is deeply embedded in our DNA.

Over the course of five centuries—from the Salem witch trials to Scientology to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, from P. T. Barnum to Hollywood and the anything-goes, wild-and-crazy sixties, from conspiracy theories to our fetish for guns and obsession with extraterrestrials—our love of the fantastic has made America exceptional in a way that we’ve never fully acknowledged. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams and epic fantasies—every citizen was free to believe absolutely anything, or to pretend to be absolutely anybody. With the gleeful erudition and tell-it-like-it-is ferocity of a Christopher Hitchens, Andersen explores whether the great American experiment in liberty has gone off the rails.

Fantasyland could not appear at a more perfect moment. If you want to understand Donald Trump and the culture of twenty-first-century America, if you want to know how the lines between reality and illusion have become dangerously blurred, you must read this book.

It might have taken me a week and a half to read it (much longer than my usual 2-3 days) but I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! Andersen is witty, he’s intelligent, and he seems to easily describe a lot of the current problems in America.

Read this book if you’re interested in facts and figures about how many Americans believe outlandish conspiracy theories but doubt proven scientific facts. Read this book if you want to know how we got to this point. Read this book if you’re fed up with Trump harping on about fake news.

Read this book.


How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: January 16, 2018
Source: Borrowed

A bracing, revelatory look at the demise of liberal democracies around the world–and a road map for rescuing our own

Donald Trump’s presidency has raised a question that many of us never thought we’d be asking: Is our democracy in danger? Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have spent more than twenty years studying the breakdown of democracies in Europe and Latin America, and they believe the answer is yes. Democracy no longer ends with a bang–in a revolution or military coup–but with a whimper: the slow, steady weakening of critical institutions, such as the judiciary and the press, and the gradual erosion of long-standing political norms. The good news is that there are several exit ramps on the road to authoritarianism. The bad news is that, by electing Trump, we have already passed the first one.

Drawing on decades of research and a wide range of historical and global examples, from 1930s Europe to contemporary Hungary, Turkey, and Venezuela, to the American South during Jim Crow, Levitsky and Ziblatt show how democracies die–and how ours can be saved.

I was fresh out of a slump when I picked up this book and holy heck, I could hardly put it down! It’s so interesting and so well-written. Levitsky & Ziblatt deliver their message very clearly while providing examples from both American history and the history of other countries. It can get a little bit repetitive at times, but I’ll forgive it. I can’t recommend this book enough for anybody who’s even remotely interested in politics.


Have you read any of these books? Do you want to have a (hopefully) calm and rational discussion about them? Let’s talk in the comments!


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Mini reviews: Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List, La Belle Sauvage, & The Wedding Date

Naomi and Ely’s No-Kiss List by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 28, 2007
Source: Borrowed

Naomi loves Ely. And she’s kinda in love with him.

Ely loves Naomi. But he prefers to be in love with boys.

Naomi and Ely have been inseparable since childhood – partially because they’ve grown up across the hall from each other in the same Manhattan apartment building, and also because they’re best friends. Soul mates. Or are they? Just to be safe, they’ve created a NO KISS LIST – their list of people who are absolutely off-kissing-limits for both of them. The NO KISS LIST protects their friendship and ensures that nothing will rock the foundation of Naomi and Ely: the institution.

Until Ely kisses Naomi’s boyfriend. And a fateful piece of chewing gum in the wrong place at the wrong time changes everything.

Soon a rift of universal proportions threatens to destroy their friendship, and it remains to be seen whether Naomi and Ely can find their way toward new soul-mate prospects…and back to one another.

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story about love of all kinds, one that reminds us that any great friendship can be as confusing, treacherous, inspiring, and wonderful as any great romance.

Despite the barrage of negative reviews, I decided to pick up this book based solely on my love for David Levithan. To my surprise, although I did have some definite criticisms, I didn’t hate it. I think it helps to view this book not as a romance, but as a coming of age story in which the characters have to come to grips with the idea that their lives might not turn out the way they’d expected. The book isn’t going to win any awards for groundbreaking fiction, but it’s a quick and fun read.

I don’t think that Naomi or Ely are supposed to be particularly likable characters. They’re both self-centered teens who could stand to do some soul-searching. I thought Naomi’s attitude throughout much of the book was pretty gross (her wish that Ely would just set aside the pesky fact that HE LIKES BOYS and just HAVE SEX WITH HER ALREADY rubbed me the wrong way) but Ely really grew on me. Yeah, he’s selfish and he’s an idiot, but he owns up to it. I just wanted him (and Bruce the Second) to be happy.

Side note: References to the Myspace community and Napoleon Dynamite took me right back to my high school days.

Previously: Dash & Lily’s Book of DaresThe Twelve Days of Dash & Lily

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
Series: The Book of Dust #1
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 19, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy…

Malcolm’s father runs an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.

He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust–and the spy it was intended for finds him.

When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, Malcolm sees suspicious characters everywhere; Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; an Egyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a dæmon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl–just a baby–named Lyra.

Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.

The book starts really slowly but picks up around the halfway point. It’s a good start to the series, I’m sure, but leaves a bit to be desired as a standalone. I ended up not finishing it within my library loan period, but I was lucky enough to snap up the audiobook in the half a millisecond that it was available. The book was much better on audio and I finished it within the day.

Maturity warning: LBS contains quite a bit of violence, a decent amount of foul language, and frank discussion (and description) of sex crimes. It’s for an older audience than HDM.

Previously: The Golden Compass • The Subtle Knife • The Amber Spyglass

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Source: Borrowed

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel.

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other…

They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century–or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…

This is a cute, light, sometimes witty romance. The action all happens in the first third or so of the book — I felt like it could’ve stopped then and I wouldn’t have really missed anything. The middle third of the books is highly focused on the sexual relationship between Alexa and Drew and it feels almost like PG-rated erotica, if that makes any sense. (The sex scenes are very fade-to-black.) The last chunk of the book is just a mess of miscommunication. The book is probably worth a read for romance fans, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as I thought I would.

Bonus points: interracial romance, fake dating that turns into real feelings, real lives outside of the relationship, great tacos