Book Review: The Secret Language of Cats by Susanne Schotz

The Secret Language of Cats by Susanne Schotz
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Have you ever wondered what your cat is saying?

Cats do not meow randomly, nor do they growl or hiss because they have nothing better to do. Cat sounds have a purpose, and they can carry important messages, whether for us or other cats.

Susanne Schotz is hard at work on breaking the cat code. She is a professor at Lund University in Sweden, where a long-standing research program is proving that cats do actually use vocal communication–with each other and with their human caretakers. Understanding the vocal strategies used in human-cat communication will have profound implications for how we communicate with our pets, and has the potential to improve the relationship between animals and humans within several fields, including animal therapy, veterinary medicine and animal sheltering.

In The Secret Language of Cats, Schotz offers a crash course in the phonetic study of cat sounds. She introduces us to the full range of feline vocalizations and explains what they can mean in different situations, and she gives practical tips to help us understand our cats better.
 

I’ll be honest here and say that the only reason I checked this out from the library was that cute kitten on the cover. I mean, I do have an interest in linguistics (I did major in it in college, after all) and I do love cats, but nonfiction about felines isn’t really my thing. Quite honestly, after I picked this up and remarked on the cuteness of the cover, I should have just put it back down, because this book was some nonsense.

The thing is, if you’ve owned cats for any portion of your life, or been close with anyone who has owned cats, or even just spent like two minutes with a cat one time, nothing in this book will come as a surprise to you. I mean, was it fun to see the various noises a cat can make transcribed using IPA? Sure, I guess. Was I happy that cats weren’t hooked up to any crazy machinery to make this book happen? Yes. But was there a point to this book? Not really.

Because aside from the transcription of cat noises into IPA, the majority of this book is just the author saying, “My cat makes this noise in this context and if you want to go to my blog, you can listen to a recording.” The book is also incredibly repetitive, stating over and over and over and over that cats make hissing and growling noises when they’re mad and chirps and purrs when they’re happy.

Overall, the book feels more like observances that will be common sense to any cat owner mixed with a lot of phonetic observations. I’d hardly call any of this a revelation, and I’d hardly call anything that the author discusses in this book a “language” since it has no known rules. For a nonfiction book, this was at least a rather quick read, but more than anything else, I’m just disappointed.

#ps19: a book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter


Have you read The Secret Language of Cats? What’s the last book that seriously disappointed you? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Little Birds by Anaïs Nin

Little Birds by Anaïs Nin
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: 1979
Source: Purchased

Evocative and superbly erotic, Little Birds is a powerful journey into the mysterious world of sex and sensuality. From the beach towns of Normandy to the streets of New Orleans, these thirteen vignettes introduce us to a covetous French painter, a sleepless wanderer of the night, a guitar-playing gypsy, and a host of others who yearn for and dive into the turbulent depths of romantic experience. 

Oh dear. When I found this book in the “old and unusual” section of my library’s used bookstore, I thought it would be something at least moderately entertaining. I guess it was, but more in an infuriating way than anything else. I think this is the least sexy erotica I’ve ever read in my life.

What follows is a brief summary of all thirteen short stories in this collection.

Click at your own risk. 1. Little Birds, a.k.a. “I take the food money my wife leaves me and spend it on pretty birds so I can lure underage girls to my apartment and then flash them.”
Probably the most disturbing of all the stories, this one features a “loving husband” who takes the money his wife earns working at the circus to buy colorful birds. Keep in mind that he’s supposed to be buying food with this money. He creates a whole menagerie in his apartment and eventually lures in some underage girls from the school across the street. Unsurprisingly, he exposes himself to them and they run away, traumatized. In what universe is this sexy?

2. The Woman on the Dunes, a.k.a. “One time I had sex on the beach and then this woman told me about how she got raped at a hanging.”
This one started off well enough, and then we had to get into this really detailed account of the woman attending a hanging and getting raped in the crowd, simultaneously aroused and horrified. It was just very, very odd.

3. Lina, a.k.a. “So boring that I literally forgot what it was about.”
Like… I read this yesterday and I don’t even remember what it was about.

4. Two Sisters, a.k.a. “My sister and I were molested by our brothers while growing up and now I just want to have sex with her husband.”
One of the bigger “yikes” stories in this collection, this one features everyone cheating on everyone with some molestation thrown in for no real reason. I really fail to see the point of this one.

5. Sirocco, a.k.a. “The first of multiple stories where the woman has to listen to her husband having sex with someone else in the next room.”
Not sure what’s supposed to be sexy about this, but at least it’s short.

6. The Maja, a.k.a. “I don’t want to have sex with my wife but I do want to have sex with a painting of her.”
I don’t even know what else to say.

7. A Model, a.k.a. “Everybody wants to have sex with a model, the longest and also most boring story in this collection.”
There’s a whole lot going on in this one — a woman who wants to model but doesn’t want to have random sex with men calling themselves artists (this is somehow a problem), a very misplaced aside about having sex with women in the jungle, and then another misplaced aside about a horseback riding injury possibly breaking her clitoris.

8. The Queen, a.k.a. “Let’s talk about a prostitute dripping semen at a ball.”
This is another one that’s just… not possibly sexy in any possible way.

9. Hilda and Rango, a.k.a. “He’s so manly that even his penis is strong.”
If you enjoy hearing about “charcoal eyes” and “wild hair” while a “strong penis” pounds into someone, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

10. The Chanchiquito, a.k.a. “Fantasies about bestiality.”
Just disturbing, honestly.

11. Saffron, a.k.a. “The super, extremely, no-doubt-about-it racist one.”
A woman wonders why her husband wants to have sex with the servants instead of her and then learns that it’s because he likes the way their skin smells like saffron. This whole story is one cringe after another, but the worst is possibly when the bride’s body is described as several different racial stereotypes.

12. Mandra, a.k.a. “Sex with my married friends.”
Basically, this woman goes around having sex with all of her married friends or just staring at them naked while the husbands are in the other room.

13. Runaway, a.k.a. “Taking advantage of a homeless underage girl.”
Why yes, I would love to read about this innocent underage girl being taken in by two older men who take advantage of her. Thank you.


I expected at least a smidgen more sexiness from these erotic short stories. What little sexiness it actually had was killed by the pedophilia and racism. Definitely not recommended.

#mmd19: a book published before you were born


Have you read Slam? Is it on your TBR?
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Book review: The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez

The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 17, 2014
Source: Borrowed

Featuring Hernandez’s longtime Love and Rockets heroine Maggie, The Love Bunglers is tied together by the initial thread of the suppression of family history. Because these secrets can’t be dealt with openly, their lingering effect is even more powerful. But Maggie’s ability to navigate and find meaning in her life — despite losing her culture, her brother, her profession, and her friends — is what’s made her a compelling character. After a lifetime of losses, Maggie finds, in the second half, her longtime off and on lover, Ray Dominguez. In taking us through lives, deaths, and near-fatalities, The Love Bunglers encapsulates Maggie’s emotional history as it moves from resignation to memories of loss, to sudden violence (a theme in this story) and eventually to love and contentment. Much like what John Updike created in his four Rabbit novels, Jaime Hernandez has been following his longtime character, Maggie, around for several decades, all of which has seemed to be building towards this book in particular.

Alright, so there I was in my library’s graphic novel section when this spine (and then cover) jumped out at me. I should really learn to look books up on Goodreads before checking them out, or at least before reading them, because it turns out that this is NUMBER TWENTY-EIGHT IN A SERIES. Oddly enough, I just checked my library’s online catalog (just in case I was completely oblivious to the other twenty-seven volumes of this series) and I did not just miss an entire row of books — this is the only one they have. This also isn’t mentioned anywhere on the copy I checked out, which I find a bit odd.

Because of the very minimalistic art style, the various time jumps, and the whole “number 28 in a series” thing, I had a hard time keeping the characters straight and remembering what was happening to who and how everybody was connected. Overall, the book was very confusing, which was, again, at least partially my fault. That said, I feel like, after 110 pages, who was who and what was going on should have been at least somewhat clear to me.

As for the plot, or what little of it I understood, it was just so sad. And why, I’m not sure. I mean, I figured that a book called “The Love Bunglers” would be at least a little sad, but I didn’t expect something like the repeated rape of a child to be something that would be a throwaway plot line. I suppose I can’t speak to what happened in the 27 volumes that came before this one or anything that comes after it, but in The Love Bunglers, it’s just something that happens, is a thing for a few pages, and then disappears.

With a Goodreads average of 4.25 stars, this is clearly a very well-loved book, but it wasn’t for me. I nearly DNFed it around page 25 (that’s when the rape starts happening) but I wanted to push through to the end to see how everything was resolved. Turns out it wasn’t and I’m mad that I wasted my time.


Have you read The Love Bunglers? What about the rest of the Love and Rockets series?
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Book review: Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger

Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Source: Purchased

Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

Told through tweets, direct messages, and police transcripts. 

I had seen a lot of hype for this book when it first came out and when I saw the author signing at a book festival I went to last year, I figured I might as well buy it. It was probably the most awkward encounter I’ve ever had in my life, which I don’t fault the author for since it just illustrates what happens when you throw two introverts who’ve never met before together and expect them to interact. Anyway, it took me a while to finally pick it up, and… I have some thoughts.

First of all, Tessa is not like other girls and Eric is always taking off his shirt to show off his six pack, so it’s basically the same two characters as every other YA book that’s come out over the last decade. Sure, there are some differences. Tessa is agoraphobic and Eric is famous. They mostly converse through Twitter, and Tessa doesn’t know that the person she’s been talking to is actually her celebrity crush.

I didn’t think that I’d have a problem with the premise, but I kind of do. I don’t necessarily mind that a celebrity is hiding his identity when he talks with a fan for the first time. I get that. But Eric lets it go on for so long and he doesn’t seem to understand that it’s not okay to lie about who he is when he and Tessa become close enough to consider meeting in person. Eric also had such an attitude about his fans that I found it surprising that he would even entertain the idea of befriending one of them, especially a superfan like Tessa.

The side characters in the book are absolutely ridiculous. Tessa’s mother is a blatantly horrible person. (Like most YA parents, I guess.) Her therapist is awful. The person from her past that she’s so scared of? Something was definitely missing because that whole story didn’t make a bit of sense.

The “cliffhanger” at the end is actually painfully obvious if you’ve paid attention at all to what’s happened throughout the book. I even went ahead and read some spoiler-filled reviews of the sequel to confirm that this story ends exactly as I expected it to.

I can’t think of anyone I’d recommend this book to. I’m glad it’s off my shelf, but it’s already in my donate pile.

#killingthetbr: ten months on shelf


Have you read Follow Me Back? What about the sequel?
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Book Review: The Senses by Matteo Farinella

The Senses by Matteo Farinella
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Step into the world of the senses . . . Meet the four mechanoreceptors of touch, examine our taste buds up close, discover the link between smells and memories, and learn how optical illusions trick the cells in our eyes into seeing things that aren’t there…

In this humorous, detailed, yet still accessible book, neuroscientist and illustrator Matteo Farinella takes the reader on a wild ride through key figures and fascinating facts about each of our five senses, describing the most up to date research alongside illuminating drawings and diagrams that even the most scientifically un-savvy will enjoy!

Here I am again with a review of a book I never actually intended to read. There I was at my library, checking to see if they’d added any new graphic novels to their collection, when I was distracted by the cover of The Senses. I read Farinella’s Neurocomic earlier this year, and, while I didn’t hate it, I also didn’t really love it. I figured I’d give him another try with The Senses, and I’m glad I did.

This is a very basic introduction to the senses, going into the major organs of the sensory nervous system and how they work and communicate with each other. I think my favorite section was the one on taste, probably just because I really enjoy cooking (and eating).

The art honestly is not my favorite, but it’s very functional. That said, I didn’t read this graphic novel for the art, I read it because the topic interests me and I thought I might learn something. I don’t know if I learned anything that hadn’t already been covered in my anatomy and physiology classes, but I still had fun reading this one and would definitely recommend it to someone looking for a basic summary of how the sensory nervous system works.

#mm19: one sitting reads


Have you read The Senses? Are you interested in neuroscience?
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Book Review: Dearest Clementine by Lex Martin

Dearest Clementine by Lex Martin
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 17, 2014
Source: Freebie

Twenty-year-old Clementine Avery doesn’t mind being called bitchy and closed off. It’s safe, and after being burned by her high school sweetheart and stalked by a professor her freshman year of college, safe sounds pretty damn good.

Her number one rule for survival? No dating. That is until she accidentally signs up for a romance writing class and needs material for her latest assignment. Sexy RA Gavin Murphy is more than happy to play the part of book boyfriend to help Clem find some inspiration, even if that means making out … in the name of research, of course.

As Gavin and Clem grow closer, they get entangled in the mystery surrounding a missing Boston University student, and Clem unwittingly becomes a possible target. Gavin tries to show Clem she can handle falling in love again, but she knows she has to be careful because her heart’s at stake … and maybe even her life.

DEAREST CLEMENTINE is a stand-alone novel with two companion novels. This New Adult romance is recommended for readers 18+ due to mature content.

I don’t give away any of the major plot twists in this review, but there are some spoilers.

Oh dear. It’s time for another negative review. I wanted to love this book. I really did. Once upon a time, it was recommended by Krista & Becca Ritchie. It was a recommended new adult book for my Romanceopoly reading challenge. It has a 4.11 average on Goodreads and 4.6 average on Amazon. Did I read a different book than everybody else? I don’t even know where to start.

I guess the first thing I want to say is that if you’re not okay with women constantly being referred to as sluts, whores, skanks, and prostitutes, you should probably avoid this book. I have never understood why women have to make these kind of comments about each other, and this book has characters doing it in both a loving way (weird) and a negative way (just inappropriate). It was so odd because Clementine’s roommate, Jenna, is almost celebrated for having constant sex with her boyfriend, but other women in the book are disparaged for it. I get that you hate your crush’s ex, but is it really necessary to talk about her like that? (Answer: No, it’s not.)

The next thing I want to talk about is the whole publishing aspect. I mean, I’m not even a writer, but I’m pretty sure the way publishing is talked about in this book is not at all realistic. Like “oh my professor really liked this story I wrote so he got me published.” WHAT? In what universe does a random professor at a random university have that much influence? Or “a blogger with a big following stumbled across my book and it became an instant bestseller.” It’s nice to think that one blogger could have that much influence, but it’s just not realistic.

I also didn’t feel much of a connection at all between the main characters. I’m pretty sure that Clementine and Gavin only start hooking up because they both think the other is hot. Which is totally fine (and at least realistic) but then don’t have them be “in love” a few chapters later. They hardly even talk! Just because Gavin carried drunk Clementine home from a bar one time doesn’t mean that they know each other.

Now let’s move on to the mystery. This is the most ridiculous mystery I have ever read. The disappearance of a student is something that happens, sure. But, honestly, the perpetrator was blindingly obvious from the beginning of the book. I almost expected the twist to be that this particular character didn’t commit the crime, because there were about twelve thousand hints dropped that he did.

And Clementine’s family? Their dynamics didn’t make any sense to me. Supposedly Clementine is an heiress to a financial mogul father and famous fashion designer mother. Her family cut her off for some vague reasons that I completely did not believe, but nobody in her family knew that she was struggling financially. I mean… it just didn’t make sense. Why did they cut her off? What really happened? How did nobody notice?

The only saving grace in this book was that Gavin wasn’t the typical broody jerk love interest. In general, he was a really kind, patient, and understanding. He didn’t pressure Clementine to do anything she wasn’t ready for and seemed like he genuinely tried to be a good guy. That said, the way he expected full honesty from Clementine while refusing to tell her why he was spending so much time with his ex (and giving a pretty unrealistic reason for his ex randomly being half-naked in his dorm room) was totally unfair.

All in all, this is a pretty stereotypical new adult book. It falls into a lot of the common new adult tropes without adding anything new to the genre. I can’t say that I enjoyed reading it at all, but at least it’s off my TBR now.

#romanceopoly: taxi
#killingthetbr: 1 year, 1 month on shelf


Have you read Dearest Clementine? Do you read new adult books?
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Book review: Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia

Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 4, 2018
Source: Borrowed

The children of Alexandria are just trying to live like normal teens, and Ben Schiller is no exception. But her relationship with her best friend is changing, her sister is hiding a dark secret, and tragedy looms. Also: where are all of the parents?

Filled with teenage loves and fights and parties, Sacred Heart is part summer vacation, part End Times anticipation, and a landmark coming-of-age graphic novel. The punk-infused, character-driven storytelling and innate cartooning talent heralds Suburbia as a major new voice in comics.

I popped into my library a couple weeks ago to pick up a different book and saw Sacred Heart sitting on the YA graphic novels table. Since I am, in general, pretty into graphic novels these days, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to check it out. Well, I was wrong.

It hurt a lot to check it out, because this was just… not good.

Let’s start with the most basic of things you need in a book: the characters. So many of the characters looked so similar that I had a hard time telling them apart even by the end of the book. There are also so many characters involved that I had trouble keeping them all straight! Every character was a different “annoying teenager” stereotype.

Moving on to the actual plot, or maybe I should say the lack of plot: I’m not really sure what the goal was here. There are a number of plot threads here. There’s the fact that all of the adults have disappeared. The constant murders happening throughout the town. The typical sex, drugs, and alcohol mindset of the punk rock scene, which is only intensified because of the lack of parental supervision. There’s a friends-to-lovers plot going on that takes up a big chunk in the middle of the book and is then kind of forgotten about. Any of these ideas could have made for an interesting book, but the problem is that they’re all just kind of left hanging. Even at the end of the book, nothing is resolved.

The only other thing I want to address here is whether this book is age-appropriate for YA. I’m definitely not in favor of any kind of censorship, but I do think it’s important to know that this book is definitely upper, upper, upper YA. Like, constant references to alcohol and drugs. A ton of sex, including full nudity. A pretty steady stream of profanity. I’m a little surprised that my library shelved this in the YA section.

I’m really struggling to find something positive to say about this book. The only thing I can come up with is that it was nice that the main character had a dog. I just can’t recommend this graphic novel at all.


Have you read Sacred Heart? What’s the last book that really disappointed you? Let’s talk in the comments!

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