Tag Archives: three 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. 



The Brief History of the Dead, by Kevin Brockmeier

7 Mar

Yes, I am actually posting.  No, I didn’t exactly read a book.  This is the review of an audiobook I listened to this weekend, narrated by Richard Poe.

For some reason, I haven’t been in the mood to sit down and read a book.  I’ve been focused on a lot of transitions in my life, and I’ve also been writing.   This is embarrassing for me to admit, but since I don’t want to give up on the Blook Bog, I have to be honest about it.  I think this is the longest time I’ve gone without reading a book since grad school!

Anyway, I’m really glad I didn’t try to read this book.  The Brief History of the Dead has been a book that I’ve wanted to read for years now; I’m glad I can finally cross it off my list.  It took a while to get into this novel, but it did have its high points.

Imagine a book that combines The Road with The Lovely Bones.  That provides some of the framework for Brockmeier’s concept.  There are two worlds with two stories that slowly come together.  As the people of the world pass on, they find themselves in The City, a world that closely resembles the one they left behind.  Married couples are re-united and best friends can meet up in a bar to have a drink in the afterlife.  Occasionally, residents vanish and no one knows what happens to them.  They have a theory that The City holds the dead as long as they are remembered by people living on Earth.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Laura Byrd, researcher for the Coca-Cola Corporation, struggles for survival in Antarctica.  She and her two teammates lost contact with the base, and when the other two set out to find help, they never return.  Through amazing endurance, Laura journeys across the frozen land, and begins to suspect that she’s the only person left on Earth.

“How many people was any one human being likely to remember? A thousand? Maybe if you were cursed with a particularly slipshod memory. So then—ten thousand?…

He was thinking about himself, his own life, and by extension, he was thinking about Laura. She was the common element, after all, the link or what have you. After all the discussion he had heard in the city, that much was obvious.”

This book poses a lot of topics that would make a good discussion.  The author’s look at life and death is very creative.  As a story, however, it fell flat for me.  There isn’t much dialogue, but lots of long descriptions.  There is a lot of symbolism, and I won’t pretend I understood it all.  For me, the symbolism got in the way of getting to know characters and staying engaged in the story.
I found Laura’s struggle to stay alive to be the most engrossing part of the book.  She faces freezing weather, deep caverns, and plague.  I can’t imagine the loneliness she experienced!
Overall, I’m going to go with three stars in my evaluation of this book.  If you’ve read it, I’d love to have a discussion about it; there’s a lot to talk about.

A Kiss at Midnight, by Eloisa James

27 Nov

Kiss at Midnight cover


“The only thing completely clear about the situation is your infatuation,” Wick said.  “Let me sum it up for you: Kate, very sensibly, shows no interest in you.   Frightened by the imminent arrival of your bride, you are now running shrieking in the direction of the one woman who not only doesn’t want you, but isn’t eligible.  Really, could you be a bit more original?”


I was planning on reading a more sophisticated book this weekend, but sometimes you just crave something light.   So I went to my bookcase dedicated to paperbacks and picked out this little gem.

A Kiss at Midnight is Eloisa James’s version of a fairytale.  Usually, I turn to Christina Dodd (highly recommended!) for that kind of thing.  Still, this has its cute moments, including a wicked stepmother, quirky godmother, and glass slippers!

The story starts slowly, introducing Kate Daltry and Prince Gabriel.  I really liked Kate right away, but it took some time to get used to Gabriel. The circumstances bringing Kate and Gabriel together are pretty random and far-fetched.  As a connoisseur of romance novels, I’m used to accepting the implausible, but some of this plot seemed unnecessarily strange.  Still, this was a fairy tale, after all, and it was easy to root for a happily ever after.

One of the easy pitfalls for Regency romance is having too many characters.  I know it leaves the possibility open for spin off stories, but sometimes it just seems too cluttered. In this case, I could barely keep up with all the characters, and it was a bit odd how they were involved in the wrap up in the end.  The best character was definitely Henry, the industrious godmother.  Her fun personality carried this book. Add in some of the hottest…ahem…romantic scenes I’ve read in a long time, and this book was a solid three stars. Overall, this is cute and enjoyable as long as you are willing to accept some of the weird parts in the plot.

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 Passage, By Justin Cronin

22 Oct

“You should have seen it.  The way they swoop down from the trees.  We really should have seen that coming.”

Recently, a facebook advertisement was kind enough to inform me that while Justin Cronin was on Good Morning America talking about his book The Passage, Stephen King called in to congratulate him on such a great book. Being the dedicated King fan that I am, I had to check it out.

The Passage is written in several parts, following several hundred of years of Post-Apocalyptic history. It begins with several story lines that all come together at a government research facility studying the effects of a virus that seems to give eternal life, give or take a few nasty side effects. As these things often do, the “experiments” get out of hand and seven scary creatures escape into the world. This marks the creation of a new world where light is the key to survival and very few actually make it.

Fast forward a hundred years later and the remaining survivors have created their own society.  The “virals” are held back with constant light.  Things are still dangerous though, and they are about to change once again, thanks to a little girl who has been there since the beginning.

I’m sad to say that I was disappointed. In fact, it took me quite a while to get through this book. The beginning started out slow. Eventually things picked up, and right as I was getting really interested, that part ended. I think I was really put off by the fast forwarding in the middle of the book, into what felt like a completely different novel. It took some getting used to. That being said, I think I can see why King would be really into it. Cronin created a complete world, full of detail and mixed into reality. As a fan of Post-Apocalyptic fiction, I appreciated the explanation of a brand new government structure. There’s also a great scene in Las Vegas that got my imagination stirring.

I only recently learned that this is the beginning of an intended trilogy. Learning that, I still don’t know what to think of the ending. Three out of Five stars, which is disappointing because I was really excited about this novel.