Tag Archives: mysterious

Heartless, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

31 Aug
heartless cover

Isn't this cover beautiful?

“Then the heat came.  It began the same as it had the night before, and with it came sudden remembrance of the dream she had forgotten.  The two faces–one black, one white, one ice, and one fire…Her mother’s ring on her finger tightened and her hands throbbed with burning.”

I just read a book that I couldn’t wait to share with everyone.  In fact, I was surprised that this book wasn’t swept up by the media in the way of Twilight.  Heartless, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, started slowly.  We are introduced to Princess Una, her brother Prince Felix, and the kingdom of Parumvir.  It’s fairy tale kingdom, complete with an enchanted forest, mysterious pet, and magical bazaar.  The story drifts slowly along until about the halfway point, when things just take off (on dragon wings?). 

After conducting some research, I learned that this is classified as Christian Fiction, and the author is often criticized for so many allegories (hidden meaning or moral).  Whelp, the allegory was lost on me!  I read it as a fairy tale, occasionally simplistic and a bit over the top.  Many reviewers called it Christian Fiction and mentioned allegory without ever explaining what that meant.  When I really love a book, I don’t really like reading many other reviews, because I want to feel solitary in that book’s world, so I’ve decided to stick with my conclusion that the overall themes were about love, devotion and the fact that no one is perfect.  This is hardly a hidden meaning. 

Often, all readers are looking for is a good story.  This one is a great story.  I can see why it drew some criticism, but I wish more people were aware of this “sleeper novel” and enjoyed it the way that I did, without consciousness of hidden morals.  I really did love this book (five stars!) and look forward to more Tales of Goldstone Wood.

The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry

3 Jun

“I turned my head toward the wall and stared at the trees.  For weeks I stared.  I stared at them as the leaves finally fell away and they revealed their lacy black branches underneath.  I looked for Jack in the web of lace.  He wasn’t there.  I looked for Lyndley, too, but she was nowhere.”

Cover for The Lace Reader

The Lace Reader begins with an introduction to Towner Whitney.  She admits right away that she’s a liar and she’s crazy.  She doesn’t seem crazy, though.  Definitely confused, and a little odd.  But Towner has been through a lot.  Her twin sister Lyndley, committed suicide fifteen years ago, and she was admitted to a mental institution shortly after the event.

Towner talks about a pillow used to make lace. It probably looked something like this. (found at http://dianelaces.wordpress.com)

When we meet Towner, she receives word that Eva, a grandmother-like great aunt, has died.  Towner has to face her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, for the first time since the tragedy.  Although she prepared for a quick trip for a funeral before returning home to San Diego, Towner faces unfinished business, mystery, and a little bit of romance.

The Whitney family is mysterious, unique, and full
fascinating characters.  The characters overall were the best part of this novel.  I loved trying to figure them out, distinguishing everyone’s quirks and their histories.  Author Brunonia Barry meticulously wrote this book interspersed with details that hint at the truth as the reader attempts to solve the multiple mysteries in Salem.

The near downfall of this novel is in the clunky way that the story changes perspective.  I have no problem with a change in point of view, and it works for the telling of this story.  I just wish it had been done more smoothly.  Towner is the narrator until about the twelfth chapter, and then it suddenly switches taking me completely by surprise.  I wish that this concept had been introduced earlier on.  It also would have helped if it at least stayed in first-person.  It felt strange to have things narrated by Towner, and then be in third-person but from someone else’s perspective.

Overall, the story was amazing!  At first, I hesitated to give it such an incredibly high recommendation.  But now, days later, I find myself desiring to read it again, looking more deeply into the lace and uncovering even more of its secrets.  As someone who seldom re-reads, I have to rate this one Five Stars!

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.