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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Cutting Teeth (13 May 2014) by Julia Fierro

Cutting TeethCutting Teeth by Julia Fierro

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would like to thank the publisher through NetGalley for my advance reader’s copy of Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro.
Cutting Teeth is the story of a group of liberal, upper-middle class-parents and their children who gather one weekend on a summer house on Long Island. Over the course of three days, their interactions affect them in ways that will change all their lives forever.
Cutting Teeth has received rave reviews from quite a few well-respected authors, but unfortunately, I found myself unable to fall in love with the characters and their stories.
First of all, the novel had a lot of characters. Although author Julia Fierro does a good job in reminding us who is who, it still took a lot of concentration for me to keep all the unconventional, intertwined families, in order in my mind. On top of this, I think that one of my main issues with the novel was the type of story and characters it portrayed.
All the characters in Cutting Teeth are upper class; their focus is on nannies, and playgroups, and getting into the best private preschool, on non-GMO foods, and on the current parenting psychology. I found it difficult to feel a great deal of empathy for these characters, and what often seemed to be the petty, overblown, dramatics of their lives. For the most part, the novel seemed to chronicle the frustrations of the parents as they bemoaned the lack of having time to travel around the world, or spend all day in an art studio, because they had chosen instead to spend thousands of dollars of IVF so they could have children. And in turn, the parents had the type of terror of their own children that lead them to acting as if it was a crime to tell a child “no” when they did something dangerous or violent.
Julia Fierro is clearly a talented writer, with a gift for describing the emotions of many characters. This is why I give Cutting Teeth 3 stars. However, ultimately, I found myself unable to relate to the types of problems the characters were having. And unfortunately, the conclusion of Cutting Teeth seemed rather abrupt and unsatisfying. After all the drama, after all the horrible things the “friends” did to each other, the ending of the novel was not, for me, enough to justify the rather torturous means.

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