Tag Archives: four star

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel, by David Wroblewski

30 Apr
“Life was a swarm of accidents waiting in the treetops, descending upon any living thing that passed, ready to eat them alive.  You swam in a river of chance and coincidence.  You clung to the happiest accident–the rest you let float by.”

Edgar Sawtelle book coverI’m embarrassed to say this book took me forever to read. I didn’t dislike it, and it was well-written. It made me sad, though. I was afraid to become too invested in the story and the characters.  Occasionally, something good would happen, and I could whizz through a few chapters.  For example, Edgar met a man named Harry.  This was by far my favorite part of the book.  Upon fearing an ending to this section, I put the book away for a few weeks before I could bring myself to keep reading.

Edgar Sawtelle is an endearing character.  He was mute from the moment he was born, for no discernible reason.  Still, he grows up happily in rural Wisconsin with his parents, his dog Almondine, and a thriving dog breeding business.  The Sawtelle Dogs are renowned for their unique abilities, with almost a mysterious quality to them throughout the novel. 

Edgar’s life takes a dramatic turn, however, when his uncle Claude returns home.  With a nod to Hamlet, Edgar’s story is somewhat creepy, adventurous, and sad.  Througout it all, the characters maintain a very human quality–Even the dogs!

This book isn’t for everyone.  I prefer a story with a bit of the supernatural, but despite that, it has a very realistic quality.  It merges topics and genres smoothly to a somewhat ambiguous result.  Although it has Oprah and Stephen King’s praise, I’m going to give it three and a half out of five stars.  Deeply appreciated, but not really the escape it’s sometimes called.  Hamlet is, after all, a tragedy. 

 

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Breaking the Rules to Love

31 Oct

Weekend Reads

To many, the idea of spending a Saturday afternoon curled up and engrossed in a book doesn’t sound all that excited.  For me, a good book, a blanket, and a cairn terrier at my side all make a recipe for a great weekend.  In fact, I often find myself unable to sleep until the story is complete.  My genre of choice for a weekend read?  A good romance novel.  Since it’s easy enough to average one of these books per weekend, I decided it wasn’t enough for a book review post.  So I did something different.  I chose two books that seemed similar and I read them both.

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, by Sarah MacLean

Nine Rules to Break CoverThis Regency romance (set in the early 19th century) features Lady Calpurnia Hartwell, nearly “on the shelf” and coming to terms with the fact that she is bland and uninteresting to anyone in the high society.  The only time she ever felt desirable was ten years ago during a brief run-in with Gabriel St. John, notorious rake (of course).  Since that time, Callie has harbored a crush that she knows will never amount to anything.

Until Callie’s younger sister becomes engaged.   This causes Callie to re-evaluate her life.  Realizing that she is practically invisible to society anyway, she creates a list of things that “a lady” can’t do…And decides to complete them.  First on her list?  A kiss from Gabriel St. John.

Gabriel has problems of his own, so when Lady Calpurnia shows up unexpectedly to request a kiss, she’s like an answer to his prayers.  He needs her to help him out, but one kiss quickly leads to complications he didn’t expect.

I personally love the “damsel in distress, strong man sees past the exterior to ignite passion and make the woman’s dreams come true” plot line.  This is definitely one of those books.  Callie occasionally brought me to tears with her vulnerability.  That being said, she was also very self deprecating.  This is a woman who felt that basically her life had no value, and for some readers it may really get on the nerves.  It was fun to see a man work so hard to break down those walls, and it was fun to see a woman slowly grow in self-confidence.

Additionally, the stunts Callie pulls in order to complete her list are full of fun and adventure.  This romance was an easy to read, fun four and a half stars!  Also, I read this just in time for the recent release of MacLean’s next book, Ten Ways to be Adored when Landing a Lord.

A Lady’s Guide to Improper Behavior, by Suzanne Enoch

Lady's Guide to Improper Behavior coverTheresa Weller is a very proper lady in the Regency romance.  In fact, she wrote the book on exactly how a single young lady should conduct herself.  However, from the moment she meets Colonel Bartholomew James, she can’t help but to act completely improper.  She looses her temper, but can’t seem to keep away.  Theresa suddenly considers breaking all the rules in order to become the pursuer and court a man.

Bartholomew, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with anyone.  Injured while in service in India, his leg isn’t the only part of him scarred.  He can’t figure out why someone so proper and adored like Theresa would have anything to do with him, but she is the first person in a year to make him feel alive.

Isn’t this cover cute and fun?  I certainly thought so, which is why I was surprised to learn how dark this was.  Unlike the previous book, which was a debut for the author, this book is authored by one of my favorites.  I re-scanned my previous reads by Suzanne Enoch, and I realized that they were a bit dark and brooding as well.  Those books made up for it with deliciously bad boys as main characters.

The refreshing part of this story is the way there is very little tiptoeing around their relationship.  Both are very direct with each other.  This meant that we got to watch the story unfold as their love deepened.  They confronted adversaries together.  On the other hand, the story was a little strange, and full of characters that I think were only there to justify their own story in a series.  Also, for some reason, the nicknames (Tess and Tolly) got on my nerves.  I know that’s kind of personal, but still it distracted me.

I usually really enjoy Enoch, but in this case it is a three out of five stars.  Nothing special, just a quick read.

The Search, by Nora Roberts (narrated by Tanya Eby)

26 Jul

The Search book coverI don’t often listen to audiobooks, but whenever I take the long drive home or to visit friends (I find that most drives from central Iowa tend to be long), I enjoy an audiobook to pass the time.  Most recently, I completed this unabridged version of The Search, by Nora Roberts.

Fiona is dog trainer enjoying her quiet, organized life on the island of Orcas in the Pacific Northwest.  She lives alone with her pack of dogs, teaching obedience classes and responding to the occasional search and rescue calls.  Simon is a carpenter/artist who is new to the island and escaping a high-profile, volatile relationship.  He and his new puppy Jaws show up on Fiona’s doorstep and Fiona sets right to work training them both!

Of course, romance ensues, but Fiona’s life isn’t as quiet as it appears on the surface. Her past is catching up with her as someone wants her dead–again!  Fiona and Simon fight to embrace their unexpected love throughout not only the normal pitfalls of a relationship, but also through deadly circumstances.

Since I am biased as a dog lover, I think I was able to forgive a lot of things in this book.  First, it fits a tried-and-true formula that is definitely no stranger to Nora Roberts.  Romance blooming in the face of danger is a popular plotline.  I personally don’t often begrudge an author for following such a formula, as long as it stays interesting.  Fiona’s search and rescue responses are definitely helpful in keeping things fresh.  I also love her dog stories; the dogs become supporting characters.

The dialogue occasionally felt awkward to me, but I am willing to place some of that blame on the narrator, who often used a patronizing voice that didn’t feel real for the characters.  Fiona seems kind of timid about some things and very fierce about others. She outright confronts Simon about their love on a regular basis.  This couple talks out their issues like no other couple I’ve read about!  Simon can be a bit annoying.  Fiona loves his winey, grudging admissions of love, and at first I thought it was cute but it did get a little old.  For example, here is how a discussion between the two of them goes once they first meet:

“You’re not beautiful.”
“There you go again, Mr. Romance.”
“You’re not, but you grab hold. I haven’t figured out why.”
“Let me know when you do.

Still, I laughed out loud a lot in this book, and rooted for them to catch the bad guy.  Because I’m a dog lover, I give this romance suspense novel four out of five stars.