Friday Reads: Inferno

Friday Reads: Inferno

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Today’s Friday Reads post is about Inferno by Dan Brown. We are big fans of Dan Brown, we have read all his books including his first two, which are lesser known, Digital Fortress and Deception Point. Inferno is the fourth book that follows Dr. Robert Langdon, a professor of religious iconology and symbology, and was preceded by Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol.

Inferno was first published in 2013 and we bought it immediately. The paperback edition came out in May 2014 at which time Dan Brown gave an enlightening interview with CBS This Morning, which you can watch below. From it we learned that Brown’s father was a math teacher, textbook author, and was known to write codes to lead his children on a scavenger hunt on Christmas morning. Brown’s mother was a very religious woman who was also the church’s choir director. This explains so much about Dan Brown’s writing.

In Inferno, we are once again taken to a world that is dark and mysterious. It starts with a Prologue told from first person; we are to assume that this is the villain speaking, as is the pattern with Robert Langdon novels. Next, we meet a confused Robert Langdon, sifting through fuzzy memories and scenes that do not make sense to him. He finally realizes that he is the hospital, but has no memory of how he got there.

In usual Dan Brown style, Inferno starts with action and keeps it coming through the whole novel. We are taken on a wild journey through Florence and we also get a history lesson, another Robert Langdon novel standard. In Inferno, Robert Langdon and Dr. Sienna Brooks, his female sidekick in this book, must decipher a modified painting of Botticelli’s Map of Hell. The painting was based on the first part of Dante’s epic poem Divine Comedy, Inferno.

The pair collect clues along the way as to why Robert Langdon is in Florence and why he has no short-term memory. We also continue the adventure of what the modified painting and Inferno have to do with each other. In the end, Robert Langdon must solve the clues and save the world. As with the other Robert Langdon books, Inferno is very long (480 pages for the hardback edition), but with all the action and suspense it really doesn’t feel like it.

One of the reasons we chose Inferno for our Friday Reads post was that today is the American premiere of the movie version of the book. In the movie, Tom Hanks reprises his role as Dr. Robert Langdon. He is definitely the perfect actor to play him in our opinion. Tom Hanks is probably one of our Top 5 favorite actors. In fact, we just talked about another of his movies in Tuesday’s postA League of Their Own. We have seen all of the Robert Langdon movie adaptations and we hope to see this movie soon. Here is the trailer, if you haven’t seen it yet.

Happy Friday and have an awesome weekend!

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Friday Reads: Review of Lessons from Tara

Friday Reads: Review of Lessons from Tara

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A couple months ago, we wrote a review of Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt. It told the story of his cross-country move from California to Maine with 25 dogs, 3 RVs, and 11 volunteers.

Lessons from Tara is a follow up to Dogtripping. There is some overlap between the two books, but plenty of new material for readers of the preceding book. Earlier this month, I gave a list of my top 5 dog books so far and now, Lessons from Tara has earned a spot on that list.

In Lessons From Tara, David Rosenfelt details how his rescue dogs and their sunny outlook on life have changed his world view. Although the title specifically names Tara, she is not the sole focus of the lessons he has learned. However if he had never met Tara, then he wouldn’t have met or rescued any of the the other dogs.

Throughout this book I laughed at some chapters and also cried during others. I think that is what makes a great dog book because the book, like dog’s themselves make you laugh and at some point during their life, they will make you cry. While reading, I shed a tear each time he talked about the loss of one of the dogs and how it never gets easier. I laughed each time he talked about the antics of all of his dogs. I definitely laughed more than cried during this book.

I also enjoyed this book because he gave some insight about his life as an author. It was nice to read that he doesn’t spend hours and hours writing his novels. That was comforting to read since that is the way the we write our books. It is always interesting to hear the processes of other authors.

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The Lincoln Lawyer: A Connelly Classic Despite a Rough Start

The Lincoln Lawyer: A Connelly Classic Despite a Rough Start

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The Lincoln Lawyer is the 16th book of Michael Connelly’s and is the first in the Lincoln Lawyer Series. The main character is Mickey Haller, a defense attorney in Los Angeles who works out of his car, a Lincoln, hence the name of the book.

Mickey is doing fairly well defending drug dealers, prostitutes and motorcycle gang members. One day, he gets a call to defend a man accused of attempting to rape and kill a prostitute. The defendant claims he is innocent, and thus we begin the journey of Mickey trying to defend his new client and get an acquittal.

The Lincoln Lawyer Review

Skeptical at First

This book was difficult for me to read for a couple reasons. My first and biggest reason for not immediately liking this book is that the defendant is not a likeable guy. From the beginning, you are very suspicious of him. He doesn’t seem trustworthy.

The second reason I had a hard time with this book is that in the beginning, the storytelling is very choppy and we are introduced to a lot of characters. Now, maybe I would have been able to keep track of who was who if I didn’t read it before going to sleep, but I’m not so sure. There are a lot of names and it became confusing.

Eventual Redemption

I won’t spoil the ending, but for all my dislike of the first three-quarters of this book, in the end, I actually liked the Lincoln Lawyer. The ending was satisfying and brought all of the characters that Michael Connelly introduced along the way together.

This book was made into a movie in 2011 starring Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller and Ryan Phillippe as the defendant. I didn’t see the movie before reading, so I didn’t have any spoilers while reading the book. This fact made the ending all the better.

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The Cuckoo’s Calling: A Classic British Mystery with an Expert Ending

The Cuckoo’s Calling: A Classic British Mystery with an Expert Ending

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This is a review of the audiobook version of The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, read by Robert Glenister.

Set among many rich, shiny people, as well as some grubby underlings who aspire to fame and wealth, The Cuckoo’s Calling centers around a private detective named Cormoran Strike. Strike is the illegitimate son of a rock star and a “super groupie.” He took up his gig as a private sleuth after part of his leg was destroyed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan where he was serving in the SIB (the British military police).

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a classic mystery. Consistent with the genre, it is not a particularly happy book, considering it’s dealing primarily with crime and death. (The main exception would be the “cozy mystery” which can tend to be quite cheerful, e.g. Father Brown, Miss Marple, or Grantchester. So, if you are looking for a light-hearted sunny read, consider those alternatives.) The ending is quite good with an unexpected surprise, which accounts for a lot when it comes to mysteries.

There is plenty of profanity throughout The Cuckoo’s Calling. If reading the physical book, this can easily be skimmed over but when listening to the audiobook, it can sometimes feel like a verbal assault. But beyond that, the characters are well drawn and the plot kept me guessing throughout, as you would expect from a seasoned author like Rowling.

I am nearly a third of the way through the second book in the series: The Silkworm. As soon as I finish, I will post a review. The Silkworm is set in the world of agents and publishers, including some “indie authors.” So far I am enjoying it quite a bit more than The Cuckoo’s Calling, but will wait until the end to say anymore.

In the coming days, we will be writing a couple more posts related to Cuckoo’s Calling, including how J.K. Rowling explores human nature in her writing, as well as the narration style of Robert Glenister.

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Dragonsinger Book Review: Harpers, Hogwarts and a Hawaiian Kolohe

Dragonsinger Book Review: Harpers, Hogwarts and a Hawaiian Kolohe

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Earlier this month, I reviewed Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey. Today, I will be reviewing the second book in the Harper Hall of Pern trilogy, Dragonsinger. If you wish to read the first book, I highly recommend you stop and read the first review, as this second review may spoil a key surprise.

In my last review, I drew comparisons between Dragonsong and the Giver Quartet. Dragonsinger then is most comparable to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, but McCaffrey’s book is more upbeat (i.e., light hearted and less serious).

There are quite a few parallels between Harry Potter and Dragonsinger.

We join Menolly arriving on dragonback to the Harper Hall. This is the place of which she has dreamed of likely since Petiron began teaching her about music back at Half Circle Sea Hold. The Harper Hall is not at all what she had imagined it would be like, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. She is there to learn music and throughout the book, there are many teachers who invest a great deal in her education (much like Harry Potter’s education at Hogwarts).

Dragonsinger Book Review

I listened to this book, just like Dragonsong, through the OneClickDigital subscription through my local library. Sally Darling narrates again and once more, she does a lovely job!

Master Robinton has a twinkle in his eye similar to that of Albus Dumbledore, and like Dumbledore, he tracks the movements of his star pupil, Menolly, while keeping busy, managing any business that crops up throughout the continent of Pern. He is a very busy man, but remains compassionate, thoughtful, and generous. The best kind of leader.

The difference between Dragonsong and Dragonsinger is night and day, quite literally. Dragonsong is filled with a sad darkness and a sense of emotional and physical isolation. The ways of Half Circle Sea Hold are quite insular, given its closed off location, but also the mentality of Menolly’s father who happens to be the leader of the community. Menolly’s family attempts to snuff out her musical gifts at ever opportunity causing Menolly to feel she has no choice but to run away, at great personal peril.

Dragonsinger, on the other hand is full of light, laughter and friendship. Menolly’s gifts are revered and celebrated, even if a few Harpers are skeptical at first. They attend a Gather, pretty much a festival with lots of food, drink, entertainment, and trade/shopping! Life flows freely and abundantly in the Harper Hall – quite a 180 from Half Circle Sea Hold. There are still challenges to overcome, but none as serious as those she faced in the first book. Dragonsinger is a comparative breath of fresh air to Dragonsong.

The best part of reading Dragonsinger was the characters. Menolly’s fire-lizards continue to play a big part in the story, especially with regard to Menolly’s emotional growth. Each Master Harper has something unique to offer, as well as the Journeyman Harpers. We meet Piemur, a young rascal with an angelic soprano voice. Al and I spent a few years during our childhood in Hawaii, and there is a Hawaiian word that captures Piemur’s mischievious spirit: Kolohe (pronounced ko-lo-hay). Basically it means “endearing troublemaker” and that’s Piemur to a T.

I have begun reading Dragondrums and Piemur is the main character. I was surprised that Menolly was not the main character in this book since she was in the first two of the trilogy. That being said, I am on Chapter 5 and it really isn’t an issue. Piemur is a very pleasant character to spend time with. Stay tuned for my review of Dragondrums!

You can read a full summary of Dragonsinger at the Pern Wikia page here.

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Review: The True Meaning of Smekday

Review: The True Meaning of Smekday

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A couple of years ago, we attended the Tucson Festival of Books and we attended a panel where Adam Rex was a speaker. The panel was called “i-Illustrate: Art, Technology and Picture Books” in which panelists discussed utilizing Photoshop and other technologies, like SketchUp, to assist in the creation of illustrations.

Panelists included Adam Rex, Chris Gall, and David Diaz.
The panelists gathered around a painting David Diaz created on the spot. Adam Rex is on the far right.

Adam Rex is a writer and illustrator of children’s books. He also is a University of Arizona alum and according to Wikipedia, a resident of Tucson. He has a long list of books to his name, 51 according to Goodreads. While perusing the shelves at the local library, I stumbled upon his first book.

The True Meaning of Smekday is about a girl named Gratuity “Tip” Tucci who lives in an urban city similar to New York City. The earth is being invaded by aliens called Boov, who are forcing all residents of the United States to move to Florida and then to Arizona. On her way there, she meets a Boov named J.Lo and discovers that he is quite friendly.

We follow along with Tip and J.Lo and their adventures cross country to find Tip’s mother. Along the way, we find out that J.Lo accidently tipped off another species of aliens, the Gorg, and now they too want to take over Earth. The unlikely pair work to save the world from both the Boov and the Gorg. This book was particularly enjoyable for me to read because it featured our home state of Arizona.

In 2015, The True Meaning of Smekday was adapted into an animated movie, Home. Rihanna provided the voice for Tip and Jim Parsons as “Oh”, the movie version of J.Lo.

If you enjoy quirky, off-the-wall funny books, you will definitely enjoy The True Meaning of Smekday!

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Connelly’s ‘Black Echo’: A Gateway to Gritty LA (Book Review)

Connelly’s ‘Black Echo’: A Gateway to Gritty LA (Book Review)

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I was introduced to Michael Connelly and his main character, Harry Bosch, by my parents. They had seen Michael Connelly’s books for years at local bookstores, but only after seeing Connelly playing poker on an episode of Castle did they finally purchase their first Bosch book: Angel’s Flight (Bosch Book #6). This was a driving factor in our first Woof Trekking stop at Angel’s Flight. They have been hooked ever since and now I am too. We own all 18 of the Harry Bosch novels.

Black Echo is the first in the series and is the first that I read. It was originally published in 1992 and won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award that same year.
Black Echo by Michael Connelly Book Review
In Black Echo, we are introduced to Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch, a detective in the LAPD. Bosch is a Vietnam veteran who worked clearing the tunnels of the Viet Cong, a so called “tunnel rat.” He has worked his way up through the ranks to detective in the elite Robbery-Homicide division until a bad shoot gets him demoted to the Hollywood division and assigned to be partners with Jerry Edgar.

Bosch is called out to a crime scene where the body of a fellow “tunnel rat” has been found. As Bosch and Edgar investigate, they discover their body leads to an unsolved bank robbery. This induces Bosch to call on the FBI for information. Special Agent Eleanor Wish is assigned to assist the LAPD in their investigation. As the investigation continues, the case becomes more and more dangerous. Bosch must follow his instincts and re-enter the tunnels under the city of Los Angeles to find out who murdered the tunnel rat.

Overall, this novel was very well written and I can see why it won an award. The book kept me guessing as to what was actually going on up until the end. The first couple of chapters are a bit difficult to get through but once you get to Chapter Four, you are rewarded. The action starts to pick up and you are sucked in. You want to keep reading and reading to find what is going to happen next.

The Bosch series was recently adapted to be a superb web television series, created by Amazon, starring Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch. We were skeptical at first if Welliver could really play Harry, but after watching both seasons, we are convinced. Each season is based on a couple of novels. The upcoming third season will be based off of this novel and A Darkness More Than Night. You can hear it from Michael Connelly himself in this video from his YouTube channel.

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Dragonsong Book Review: A Joyous Flight through Pern on Dragonwing

Dragonsong Book Review: A Joyous Flight through Pern on Dragonwing

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Ever since we finished bingewatching all five seasons of BBC’s Merlin a few months ago, I have been on the look out for more dragon literature. John Hurt’s the Great Dragon was one of my favorites of all time.

After typing in the word dragon in the search of the local library catalog, I was scrolling through a list of books and came across an unexpected book cover. It featured an older woman with a tiny dragon perched on her hand. The book turned out to be the biography of Anne McCaffrey, Dragonholder, written by her son, Todd McCaffrey.

I was intrigued. I decided to check out some of Ms. McCaffrey’s books and settled on Dragonsong because I liked the name. I found the audiobook, read by Sally Darling on the One Click Digital App and downloaded it. It took a while to get used to Ms. Darling’s reading style and also to get to know the world of Pern. But wow, it was worth it.

Dragonsong is right there with my other favorite fantasy/sci-fi books, from the The Hobbit to Animorphs to the Giver Quartet.

It is quite a bit like Gathering Blue and Son, the 2nd and 4th books in the Giver Quartet. All three feature female protagonists that face life’s challenges with strength and grace; Menolly in Dragonsong, Kira in Gathering Blue, and Claire in SonDragonsong was written much earlier though, published in 1976 while the Giver Quartet was published from 1993 to 2012.

Though Menolly sometimes moans and groans in excess, that is perfectly normal for a 14-year-old, especially a neglected and misunderstood one. Menolly’s distress is genuine and as a reader, you really feel for her. Yanus, Menolly’s father, reminded me of Uther Pendragon from BBC’s Merlin and got me throwing shade like… oh no you didn’t.

The physical copy of this book is 192 pages. It only took me 10 days to listen to the whole book, which is quite speedy for me. I tend to lose interest in books quickly. I can’t wait to read more. I’m already on Chapter 2 of the second book of the trilogy: Dragonsinger. The audiobook is also read by Sally Darling.Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey Review - 2

Fire lizards and Spiderclaws, Thread and Harpers, Benden Weyr and Half Circle Sea Hold, I’m so glad we met!

Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey: ★★★★★ (5/5 Stars!)

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Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey Review Featured

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Book Review: “Dogtripping,” A Wild and Endearing Ride

Book Review: “Dogtripping,” A Wild and Endearing Ride

posted in: Book Reviews, Entertainment, Travel, Woof Trekking | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Since 2012, we have been going on semi-annual road trips with our two dogs and cat (Izzy, Nana, and Billy). Earlier this year, we stumbled upon a book at the library that is about precisely this topic.

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It seemed like fate. We had to take it home. And what’s more, when you take home a book from the library, you feel none of the bookstore guilt.

You know, when you pick out a book, read five pages, decide to buy it, then watch it sit on your shelf, accumulating layer after layer of dust. When you get books from the library, they come with a read-by date. This institution-imposed structure is exactly what we need when it comes to reading a book cover to cover.

The book is titled Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure by David Rosenfelt. It is a fantastic and interesting read. Al read the physical book, while Mac listened to the audiobook on the OneClickdigital App. Both editions are great, although there are no photos with the audiobook. That is easily remedied. You can see photos from the journey, nicknamed Woof-a-bago, on David Rosenfelt’s website at

Rosenfelt weaves together the story of the road trip with endearing, personal stories about his dogs. Sounds simple enough, but neither the trip nor the dogs are typical. The trip was all the way from Los Angeles to Maine and the dogs were all from the shelter/pound, dogs who were either too sick or too old to be adopted from the rescue group run by David and his wife, Debbie. Yes, read this book with a tissue box.

Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure

We loved his self-deprecation and dark humor in the writing of this novel. (FYI: Mr. Rosenfelt is also a mystery author.) All dog lovers will enjoy the relatable tales of quirky rescues. We definitely recommend this book and give it 5 stars! It was the catalyst and a source of inspiration for our upcoming book, Woof-Trekking.

We hope you enjoyed this book review and that you check out “Dogtripping”!

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Books on the Brain: Scientific Self-Help (Part 2)

Books on the Brain: Scientific Self-Help (Part 2)

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Welcome back for Part 2 of Books on the Brain: Scientific Self-Help! Today, I will be discussing: Quiet by Susan Cain and Presence by Amy Cuddy.

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In Part 1, I discussed leveraging your local library for free books and audiobooks, as well as the possibility of achieving a calm mind through a calm body, as discussed in A Calm Brain by Dr. Gayatri Devi.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

I recently discovered that I have spent a great deal of my life pretending to be an extrovert. This book opened my eyes to the fact that not only is to okay to be an introvert, but it is actually a bit of a superpower!

(Have you noticed that sometimes it is spelled “extrovert” and other times “extravert”? Read more about why on the Scientific American.)

I don’t need to be ashamed or fearful of being quiet anymore. It is who I am, and it is because I am an introvert that I am able to work independently, spend many hours working alone, and have the ability to leverage my own imagination, rather than depending on input from others.

This book really struck home for me. I give the book 5/5 stars. *A must read for introverts!*

Just last week, Susan Cain released Quiet Power, which applies principles from Quiet for kids and teens. I wish that I had found this book when I was a kid!

Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts

Below is Susan Cain’s TED Talk, which is definitely worth watching. My favorite line was “R-O-W-D-I-E; that’s the way we spell rowdy! Rowdy! Rowdy! Let’s get rowdy!” There have been so many times in my life when I had to put on my “Scooby Suit” (As labeled by Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies, on Charlie Rose. See the interview here.) in order to participate with everyone else, rather than just withdrawing into myself.

Thanks to reading Quiet, I feel much more comfortable in my own skin. 

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

A few weeks after reading Quiet, I came across this book. I will be honest: it was hard to read at first. I had seen an interview with Amy Cuddy on CBS This Morning a few months earlier and was excited to read the book. However, after 50 pages, I thought about quitting, mostly because the content did not meet my highly built-up expectations.

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

The title of the book is Presence NOT Power Poses. (That’s what I thought the book was going to be about.) I continued reading despite my irritation and found that the book really picked up around page 100.

It stinks when you have preconceived notions about a book which then prevent you from fulling living in the moment, listening to each word. That’s what happened to me at the beginning of this book- I was NOT being Present. LOL!

I eventually got to the power pose section of the book, and it was all that I hoped it would be. I was excited to start practicing. At the beginning it was hard to pose for so long without feeling silly but I felt undeniably and inexplicable strong effects on my confidence level. Presence is similar to A Calm Brain in that they both investigate how the body can affect the mind. 

This book is about so much more than Power Poses. It is a holistic view on how to live in the now and get past your anxiety. I have started listening to it a second time and am enjoying it much more than the first. I give Presence 4.5/5 stars.

Below is Amy Cuddy’s now famous TED Talk! *But remember the book is about more than the talk.*

The next book I want to read in this genre is called Grit by Angela Duckworth. She has also given a TED Talk, which you can view here. I am excited to read it and have already placed a hold on it at my library.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

I hope you enjoyed these book reviews and that you are living comfortably in your skin!

Also, remember to go to the library! It is a fun place. 🙂

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