Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn

Thereby Hangs a Tail (A Chet and Bernie Mystery #2)Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m so glad I discovered this super-sweet and also funny series featuring PI team Chet (a dog, and our narrator) and Bernie (his human).
The Chet and Bernie mysteries remind me in some ways of Bunnicula for adults (with the caveat that I consider Bunnicula appropriate and perhaps necessary reading fare for EVERYONE, adults included!).
What primarily makes this an “adult” book is that as Chet and Bernie solve crimes, Chet is witness to events, often not fully understood, that the reader realizes have serious implications, either regarding life and death, relationships, or even contemporary environmental issues.
Although at first glance, the story seems so funny as to be almost “fluff” reading, Spencer Quinn (a pseudonym for a well-known crime writer) actually writes with the talent of capturing deep feelings and wisdom, with a few simple, carefully chosen words.
Since the story is told from a dog’s perspective, we’ve got a narrator who is totally loveable, and also totally grounded in the things that matter in life. I loved this aspect of Thereby Hangs a Tail.
Chet’s perspective, in which the concept of worrying doesn’t make sense, in which life is full of joy and wonder, and in which his human is loved totally and unconditionally, are qualities which I value, and want to remember more in my daily life.
Thereby Hangs a Tail is a fast read, with a lot of humor, a great sense of place (the American Southwest), and two characters who will leap right off the page and into your heart. A great book to brighten your day.

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You Can Never Go Back(?): books that make me feel like a child again

Over my coffee this morning, I was pondering books that I really love. Books that feel like a hug, or a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night, or looking at a starry sky up in the mountains.

As a child, I read like a maniac…picking up picture books and “reading” them to myself in baby language before I could speak properly. Once I had  a basic grasp of a language other than my own, and then, a few years later, when I could read, I gobbled up everything I could. I especially remember looking forward to summertime, and the library reading club, when I would spend most of each day engrossed in a book, eyes tired, legs cramped, but in absolute bliss.

As an adult, one of my disappointments is realizing that in many ways I have lost that ability to fully immerse myself in the world of books. And I don’t mean fantasy worlds, specifically (though Peter Pan’s Neverland will always be a personal favorite). The intense absorption that I felt as Nancy Drew climbed the hidden staircase, or Harold stalked, and “steaked” seemingly harmless Bunnicula, or the little princess discovered her attic room transformed, has never been equaled as an adult.  A few times, recently, I have reread childhood favorites, and found, to my dismay, that I do not experience the same enchantment as I did 25 years ago.

However, I still enjoy reading immensely, and once in a blue moon, I stumble upon a magical book that reminds me of how reading used to make me feel. Here are a few recent finds that have managed to take this clock-checking, calorie-counting, responsible(ish) adult back, for a little while, to never, never land.

  1. Darling Jim– by Christian Moerk- a tale based on true events in Ireland, it has an adult fairytale quality. Colors that describe it would be red and black, and despite being about obsession and murder, remembering it makes me feel like my heart is getting a hug.  A delight.
  2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane– by Neil Gaiman- captures the feel of being a child, and allowed me to experience that possibility again as an adult. I quickly forgot the specifics (which is interesting, given the story itself) but the joy I felt remained.
  3. Nine Coaches Waiting – by Mary Stewart- First published in 1958, Nine Coaches Waiting delighted me with a safer, more innocent world, where people do their best, and midnight picnics after a ball seem possible. Set in the Rhone-Alpes region of France, this gothic romance is pure escape.
  4. Tethered– Amy MacKinnon -strange, strange, strange. The front cover, which shows a girl floating in water with her hair spread out behind her, captures the feel of the story to me. I didn’t give Tethered a high rating at first, and I didn’t get the “twist” until I read it in others’ reviews. However, Amy MacKinnon’s utterly unique voice, and the mournful, quiet, mood she creates with her fragrant greenhouse and tortured heroine have stayed with me over time.
  5. Starter House – Sonja Condit- I just loved this book. A gorgeously described drama that also happens to contain a murderous ghost.
  6. The Girl on the Stairs– Louise Welsh- Another purely escapist read. A solitary mind-f*ck of a novel with crumbling graveyards, broken hearts, and a pregnant, lesbian protagonist who may or may not be losing her mind. Utterly unique- I have yet to find another novel like it.
  7. A Summer of Drowning – John Burnside (who is also a poet)- I have no idea what this book is really about, but it transported me to a strange, bright world of danger and freedom, where reality and fantasy merge and sunlight dances on the sea.
  8. The Falcons of Fire and Ice– Karen Maitland- a world of ice and beauty, and of blood, mud, and tears. Lust, torture, witchcraft, murder, but also, somehow, love. Karen Maitland’s world is visceral; you smell it, you feel it, and you will delight in it.

What books have brought the magic of childhood reading back to you as an adult? I’d love to hear.

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