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?