REVIEW: 'Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World' by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

Something to know before you buy:

The friendly, cuddly-looking feline on this book jacket heartbreakingly plays second fiddle in his own story.  This book is definitely more of a memoir of Vicki Myron and the town of Spencer, Iowa than of Dewey the library cat.  If you're looking for a charming pet-and-owner love story, this is not it.  While Dewey is touted as the hero of the book, his owner's life experiences are what really take precedence in the storytelling.  Myron and Witter also make Spencer's history, as well as library politics, a main focus for the book.

Things to know before you read:

While Vicki Myron's tale could still be appealing enough to draw sufficient reader interest (the reason, I'm guessing, for why they decided to feature these details so heavily), the stories in this book do not appear transparent enough for her to keep that interest.  I imagined Bret Witter sitting for long hours with Vicki Myron trying to coax an entire book out of her.

Thus, the writing suffers. It is mediocre and stand-offish, and sounds like Witter and Myron never met.  The voice is not one of any pet owner I've known.  There are sentences about how much Dewey means to Vicki Myron, but the tone is so flat, you don't really believe them.

In this book, Dewey best functions as a common thread, a jumping-off point for Myron and Witter to write about Myron's troubled relationship with her teenage daughter; her medical history; and her messy divorce.  Add to that Spencer's own history, and you end up with so many subjects to broach, there isn't room enough for Dewey.  He became a transition and nothing else, which I don't feel was an appropriate memorial to his life, nor what the authors were looking to accomplish with their book.

I don't know for what occasion or to what audience I would suggest this book, although the publicity it's received and the fame it's earned cause me to think there are plenty of people out there who would readily have those answers.  For me, though, it's once again that age-old adage: "Never judge a book by its cover."  Dewey's sweet face is enchanting, but the story between these covers is anything but.

NEXT UP: Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger (author of The Devil Wears Prada).

REVIEW: 'The Red Wyvern' by Katharine Kerr

For those of you who don't know, wyvern (or wyrm) means dragon.

This is the 9th book in Kerr's Deverry series of novels, and the first book of her third "act," The Dragon Mage.

I've been obsessed with this fantasy novel series ever since high school, when my friend introduced me to them.  She told me it was Celtic-inspired fantasy, and included a lot of magic and reincarnation...oh yeah, and watch out for the incest.  But honestly, she had me at reincarnation.  At the time, I was developing my interest in the idea (of reincarnation, not incest!  I know you're still stuck on that word), so I picked up my own copy (or maybe I borrowed hers) and dove right in.

I became obsessed.

The overarching storyline of the first two acts follows a particular soul that is destined for greatness.  However, before said soul can achieve said greatness at the predetermined moment, the body it's inhabiting dies, the death caused by a foolish young lord.  When the lord realizes what strands of fate he's broken, he vows he will never rest until the wrong is righted.  The vow is accepted by the "higher powers," we'll say, and he is granted the ability to follow the soul through many subsequent lives -- aging, but never dying.  Each book details a life or two of this soul, and the subtle efforts of the lord, now called Nevyn, to steer the soul back to greatness.  It takes many lives, because Nevyn can't just come out and explain the situation.  For one, most human beings don't believe in reincarnation, or have ever heard of it; and two, the soul has to find its path willingly.  However, it's not just a lot of day-to-day medieval chores you're reading about, waiting around for this soul to become enlightened.  There's love, war, and in the meantime, Nevyn himself becomes quite the talented sorcerer (or whatever you call those in Celtic fantasy).  There's the essential plot-moving fight against Darkness/ which enter the other planes of existence, which I won't go into because I still have a hard time explaining them to myself.

However much I've loved this series, though, in The Red Wyvern, first book of the third act, I'm not quite sure where Kerr is going, and I can't really tell you why (too many spoiler alerts).  However, her writing still hooks me, even after nine years of reading.  She works hard to maintain realistic diction (I'm pretty sure "Oh, by the black hairy ass of the Lord of Hell" is the one expression I'll always remember), and even includes a pronunciation guide in the back of the books.  Also included is a table of reincarnations, so it's easier to follow which character comes back in what form...because obviously, it's not just the one soul that reincarnates -- it's everyone, and they all tend to stick together through their various lives.

I will say this latest bored me just the slightest.  I'm not sure if it has to do with the fact that I'm older, or that I'm not as emotionally attached to the emerging storyline.  The book is called The Red Wyvern, but the dragon I was expecting never showed up.  I suppose I'll have to continue reading...which is ok by me.  Kerr has never really steered me wrong before, and I have no real reason to doubt she would now.

NEXT UP: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.  Who doesn't love libraries that turn out famed cats?

REVIEW: 'Breaking Dawn' by Stephenie Meyer

After four books full of romantic sighing, teenage angst, and trick-or-treat-type thrills, I still have no idea why I became so addicted to the Twilight saga.  The only thing I can think of is the dialogue: Meyer has somewhat of a gift for keeping her story moving.  There's always a conversation happening, whether it's between Bella and the vampires, Bella and her own thoughts, Jacob and Edward, Jacob and the other werewolves...  The events of the book, particularly the day to day activities (example: much of Breaking Dawn involves Bella and the Cullens waiting for Alice's visions to come true), don't do much to keep the writing interesting.  It's the internal monologues, and the dialogues (both internal and external) that help drive the plot forward.  However, I did notice that when the events in the book falter, the dialogue seems to struggle too, becoming like filler -- just something to get you through that scene until the more important things take place.

I must say, though, Breaking Dawn was my favorite of the four Twilight books next to New Moon because the characters could finally break down their walls and resolve their differences.  This brought out their true, honorable personalities.  All the distractions of the drama and fighting were gone.  Bella's transformation also allowed Edward to stop fawning over her like a mother still attached to her child's umbilical cord.  He felt like a real boyfriend for her, not just a...well, I envisioned him as an ironclad cage around her, stripping her of her freedoms, until this book.  In this book, he and Bella had a real relationship, which I appreciated.

I don't want to say much of anything else in this review because there are just so many spoilers and I feel like I've already given some things away.  And being the fourth and final book in the series...well, it's hard to review just one piece of a puzzle.

The Twilight books are either books you can't get into, or books you can't put down.  I am glad I gave them a chance, because I ended up in the category of Can't Put Down.  They may be targeted towards young adults, but you read them and (this is going to sound NUTS, but if you're a fan, you'll know what I mean) you realize that you were there, too, once, even if your boyfriend wasn't a vampire and your best friend wasn't a werewolf.  You were there, too, with those same (un-amplified) problems.  So maybe that's why Meyer is such a success.  Her books make you feel lucky and successful yourself.  Happy reading, vamps.

(And for reviews I've written for Twilight and New Moon, visit my Shelfari page. )

UP NEXT:  The Red Wyvern by Katharine Kerr.  This book is number...ten? in Kerr's Deverry series.  I've been reading them since high school.  If you're a fantasy fan, this next review's for you!

Book It

So, I've wanted to join a book club FOREVER, but my being out of school for so long, paired with the large amount of books I already have sitting on my shelf (some of them still waiting to be opened after 5+ years), has prevented me from doing so.

Are any of you in a book club?  What would you recommend for the someone like me who is craving bookish socialization, but who also likes to follow her own reading agenda?

If this one has like a "beginner level," I think I could get into it  -- I think I've even brought it up before...

Anybody out there in Lakewood who wants to do this with me (pending, of course, that my work schedule can be rearranged on Tuesdays)?

Lemme know!  :)