Review: Sit, Stay, Love

Book Title: Sit, Stay, Love: A Novel for Dog Lovers

Book Author: Dana Mentink

Book Rating: ☆☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)

Published: April 1, 2016

Synopsis: “Take one abrasive professional athlete, a quirky out-of-work schoolteacher, and an overweight geriatric dog, and you’re ready for a lesson in love…Tippy style.

Pro baseball pitcher Cal Crawford is not a dog guy. When he inherits his deceased mother’s elderly dog, Tippy, he’s quick to call on a pet-sitting service.

Gina isn’t thrilled to be a dog sitter when her aspirations lie in the classroom. Furthermore, she can’t abide the unfriendly Cal, a man with all the charm of a wet towel. But with no other prospects and a deep love for all things canine, she takes the job caring for Tippy.

As Gina travels through Cal’s world with Tippy in tow, she begins to see Cal in a different light. Gina longs to show Cal the God-given blessings in his life that have nothing to do with baseball or fame. When her longing blooms into attraction, Gina does her best to suppress it. But Cal is falling in love with her too…

Discover the charming story of Tippy, the dog who brought a family together.

Cal Crawford is a successful and well-known professional baseball player; he’s a rough-around-the-edges type of guy with a past, and who doesn’t let people into his life easily.  When his mother passes way, he inherits her elderly dog named Tippy.  Cal is definitely not a dog person, but he just can’t seem to let go of the little dog, holding on to her as a last connection to his mother.  Because of his career and his lack of patience, he hires a dog sitter to help him care for Tippy.

Gina is the exactly opposite of Cal in every way: She is warm, friendly, aspiring teacher who knows nothing about sports, and is absolutely a dog lover.  When Gina is hired by Cal to care for Tippy, their relationship starts as just a mere tolerance for one another.  Later, as they bond over Tippy, their relationship blooms into a sweet romance.  They both help bring out the best in the other, with Cal providing Gina stability and comfort, and Gina helping Cal to open up and experience the blessings that God provides.

This isn’t a book that I normally would have picked out for myself, but I was drawn in by the sweet dog on the cover.  If you are looking for a breezy story with a lot of heart and clean romance, you should give this one a try!  There are some minor issues with the plot, and it took me a while to warm up to this quirky story, but it was an enjoyable read. Overall, this is a fun and sweet Christian romance novel.  This would make a quick beach read for the summer, and yes…it is a perfect story for any dog lover!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.

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Review: Me Before You

Book Title: Me Before You

Book Author: Jojo Moyes

Book Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

Published: January 5, 2012

Synopsis: “Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.”

WARNING: This review contains spoilers!  I usually try to avoid spoiling the plot of the books that I review, but it was going to be impossible for me to completely express my thoughts on this one without giving anything away.

Despite my high rating, I do have conflicting feelings about this book. I think most people know what this story is about, and I’m not going to get into an ethical debate over patient assisted suicide on this blog.  I will say that I am actually glad that I knew how the book ended before I began reading it.  I think if I hadn’t known, I might have been a lot more angry.  And yet, despite knowing it wouldn’t be the case, I kept hoping that Louisa would be able to change Will’s mind, that Will would see that his life really and truly was still worth living.

This book wasn’t really on my “I need to read that” radar until I saw the movie trailer a few months back. It looked like a really unique take on a typical contemporary romance and I was interested in seeing it in theaters. I wanted to be sure to read the book first, though.  I wasn’t really sure if I would enjoy it or not, most people have categorized this book as “chick lit”, but it was so much more than that.  I was deeply moved by this story, and the characters stayed with me even when I wasn’t actively reading the book.

Despite how the book ended, I loved watching the relationship between Will and Lou unfold from her being the caregiver to his grumpy self, to them developing a genuine friendship and trust and bringing out the best in one another, to finally falling in love.  The ending chapters broke my heart, I felt as though I could feel Lou’s pain.  I wanted so desperately to comfort her in some small way; that is truly how invested in the story I was, and how well the author developed these character.

I am glad that there is a sequel (I started it pretty much immediately after I closed Me Before You for the last time), although I have heard mixed reviews for it.  I am just not ready to let the character of Lou go yet.

Review: The Girls

Book Title: The Girls

Book Author: Emma Cline

Book Rating: ☆☆ (2 out of 5 stars)

Published: June 14, 2016

Synopsis: Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction—and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become.”

I feel like there must be something wrong with me. I keep hearing such wonderful things about this debut novel, and I was completely underwhelmed. The Girls is filled with prose that just screams “I am Literary!!! Look at all of these pretty words!” And while I love descriptive writing that draws you into a story, there is such thing as overkill. I am also a little irritated by the comparisons of this novel to The Virgin Suicides. I love The Virgin Suicides and can see the parallels about growing up in a world that is not always kind to teenage girls, but The Girls is just not as engaging and not nearly as well-written.

The story begins with an aging woman named Evie, who we quickly learn was part of a cult during her early teenage years. I think the author intends for readers to be shocked by this fact that this unremarkable woman has such a sordid past. After the first chapter, the book flashes back to the year 1969, and describes how Evie went from being a typical 14 year old girl to a member of one of the most infamous cults in history. Unfortunately, the story just seemed to drag on and on. Of course we need background on our character to understand why she would be interested in joining a cult, but it was just too much. Too much mundane description and not enough plot.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.

Review: The Heart Goes Last

Book Title: The Heart Goes Last

Book Author: Margaret Atwood

Book Rating: ☆☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)

Expected Publication: September 29, 2015

Synopsis: “Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.

I’m a little unclear on the details, but from what I understand, this book began as several short stories by Atwood that have been re-edited and are going to be published together in one volume in September.  I have not read any of the short stories, so I cannot comment on those, but this comprehensive volume was an overall enjoyable read.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that this is my first time reading anything by Margaret Atwood.  The Handmaid’s Tale has been on my “To be Read” list for ages now, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.

After a catastrophic financial collapse leaves a significant percentage of Americans without jobs, Charmaine and Stan are forced to leave their home and live in their car. They get by with the small income that Charmaine makes from her bartending job, but with crime at an all time high they are never really safe.  With nowhere to go and no better prospects, the young married couple is stuck in a seemingly never ending cycle of “just getting by”.  But when the pair hears of Consilience, a safe and comfortable place to live and work, it seems like an opportunity that they cannot pass up.  Never mind the fact that they have to voluntarily report to prison every other month while they live in this otherwise idyllic community. The two quickly sign up to join the community, and you may be able to guess, it really is too good to be true.

As much as I love a good dystopian, I have been steering away from the genre lately.  What can be done that hasn’t been done before?  I didn’t feel that The Heart Goes Last was ground-breaking or anything, but it did feel very unique.  My biggest problem with this book were Charmaine and Stan.  They were both so deeply unlikable, and I really couldn’t ever get past that.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.

Review: In a Vertigo of Silence

Book Title: In a Vertigo of Silence

Book Author: Miriam Polli

Book Rating: ☆☆ (2 out of 5 stars)

Synopsis: “In Miriam Polli’s debut novel, Emily, the young protagonist, discovers a family secret and thinks, I know now that secrets run in the blood and bones of those who came before. This intensely moving, multi-generational novel follows the lives of women, both strong and frail—shrouded, at times warped, by the confines of a long-held secret. Polli has drawn characters with empathy and poignancy as Emily strives to change the destiny of her family.

I find books that revolve around a family secret to be very intriguing.  The synopsis of this novel states that this story is about Emily, and her discovery of a long buried family secret.  The description isn’t incorrect, but you should be aware that Emily doesn’t discover this family secret until about two-thirds of the way through the story.  I explain of all of this to simply say that this novel has a very slow build.  It is very beautifully written, and I enjoyed reading about the women in this Polish family; but the plot moved excruciatingly slow, and it was at times nearly impossible for me to muddle my way through the rest of the book.

The story is told from the perceptive of three different women, and the timeline jumps around quite a bit, but the author has laid out everything in a way that is very easy to follow.  The characters themselves were fleshed out nicely, although I had a hard time connecting with any of them.  Overall, this book was “just okay” for me, and I would have a hard time recommending it to anyone.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.