The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Story of Edgar SawtelleThe Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don’t quite know what to make of this book. It has some nice literary prose. The author can certainly paint pictures with words. But plotwise I thought it was tedious in the extreme. For a book that is supposed to be a retelling of Hamlet, it had nothing of Shakespeare’s eloquent examination of what it means to be human. Too much was said in the way of endless details about dog training, and sign language, and what Edgar stole when he was surviving in the woods, and how he chose names for the dogs, but too little was said about what drove the characters to do what they did. And after paralleling Shakespeare for the first two thirds of the book, it kind of fell apart at the end. Retellings of classics should, in my mind, provide insights into the original story. This just wrapped it up in so much murkiness I really could not discern the point behind the story.

Book description: Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar’s lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar’s paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles’ once peaceful home. When Edgar’s father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm–and into Edgar’s mother’s affections.

Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father’s death, but his plan backfires–spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father’s murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward.

Morality for Beautiful Girls

Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #3)Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved how Mma Makutsi comes into her own in this book, being promoted not only to assistant detective, but now she is also in charge of running Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors and soon has Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s two lazy and silly assistants falling in line under her more disciplined hand. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is staying temporarily at the orphanage to recovery from a bout of depression, and becomes involved with the mysterious “wild boy” found out in the bush. Lots of the usual philosophical musings from McCall-Smith’s characters on the nature of morality and other aspects of life. Would have been 5 stars, but I’m not a fan of chapters alternating plot threads which he does in this book.

Book description: Precious Ramotswe, founder and owner of the only detective agency for the concerns of both ladies and others, investigates the alleged poisoning of the brother of an important “Government Man,” and the moral character of the four finalists of the Miss Beauty and Integrity Contest, the winner of which will almost certainly be a contestant for the title of Miss Botswana. Yet her business is having money problems, and when other difficulties arise at her fiancé’s Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, she discovers the reliable Mr J.L.B. Matekoni is more complicated then he seems.

The Boleyn Reckoning

The Boleyn Reckoning (The Boleyn Trilogy, #3)The Boleyn Reckoning by Laura Andersen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very satisfying conclusion to this well-done alternate history trilogy. I look forward to seeing where Laura Andersen will go next. These books do NOT stand alone. Thank goodness for the advance reading copy (the book will be published in July) so I didn’t have to wait for the conclusion! While Minuette was clearly the focus of the first book, bordering on a sort of Tudor Mary Sue, here she is almost in danger of fading into the background, relegated to pregnant married wife status, albeit the current obsession of the King of England. Neither she nor Dominic lead the action, although they are still central to the plot, as events unravel following their secret marriage in book two. No, this book is much more about William and his descent into a vengeful tyrant. (It is by far the darkest of the three books.) It is also about Elizabeth and her continuing machinations behind the scenes to try and repair the damage that William is doing. She is loyal to her brother, but she is more loyal to her country. Heads will roll before all is said and done. It probably isn’t a spoiler to say that we know Mary Tudor and William will have to die, leaving Elizabeth on the throne in the end. That lends a certain inevitability to some of the action. We know that William can’t be saved, and we might wish for some kind of intervention to change the ending, but I do think it is all quite believable. I was a teensy bit disappointed that Elizabeth did not assert herself more, but it probably is true to character that she would have worked more behind the scenes. Some of the other minor characters had important parts to play, and without giving anything away, I was pleased with their part in the story.

Book description: The Tudor royal family has barely survived a disastrous winter. Now English ships and soldiers prepare for the threat of invasion. But William Tudor—known as Henry IX—has his own personal battles to attend to. He still burns for Minuette, his longtime friend, but she has married William’s trusted advisor, Dominic, in secret—an act of betrayal that puts both their lives in danger. Princess Elizabeth, concerned over her brother’s erratic, vengeful behavior, imperils her own life by assembling a shadow court in an effort to protect England. With war on the horizon, Elizabeth must decide where her duty lies: with her brother or her country. Her choice could forever change the course of history.

Learning to Walk in the Dark

Learning to Walk in the DarkLearning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am an unapologetic night owl, long ago having to cope with the fact that I was the only one in the family still awake in the middle of the night (scary! at age 10, but I got used to it, and then learned to love it.) I’m also left-handed (sinister!), so I appreciate the way our language equates all things good with light, and all things bad with darkness, and yet I don’t have to agree with that! This is not a “how-to” book – nothing too deep here to ponder. It is more like a journal of the author’s personal exploration of darkness and what she learned from it. Each chapter could be read as a kind of meditation as she looks at the concepts of blindness, caves, the dark madonna, or the dark night of the soul. A gentle and self-affirming book.

Book Description: Taylor has become increasingly uncomfortable with our tendency to associate all that is good with lightness and all that is evil and dangerous with darkness. Doesn’t God work in the nighttime as well? In Learning to Walk in the Dark, Taylor asks us to put aside our fears and anxieties and to explore all that God has to teach us “in the dark.” She argues that we need to move away from our “solar spirituality” and ease our way into appreciating “lunar spirituality” (since, like the moon, our experience of the light waxes and wanes). Through darkness we find courage, we understand the world in new ways, and we feel God’s presence around us, guiding us through things seen and unseen. Often, it is while we are in the dark that we grow the most. With her characteristic charm and literary wisdom, Taylor is our guide through a spirituality of the nighttime, teaching us how to find our footing in times of uncertainty and giving us strength and hope to face all of life’s challenging moments.