The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

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4/5 stars.
Paperback, 321 pages.
Read from May 07 to 08, 2013.

Another throwback review! Yeah! Read this gem a few years back and it really stuck with me.

This novel caught me off guard emotionally. It pulled at all of my heart-strings, in a good way and  I couldn’t put it down. I had heard about the book before but it wasn’t until an acquaintance lent me the book that I had a desire to read it. Stein manages to create a successful novel that is race car themed AND narrated by a dog. I mean what are the chances of that? Well, he absolutely nailed it.

The Art of Racing In the Rain is a story about human resilience, love and what people will do for the people and things that truly matter to them. Enzo is a dog and he is your narrator throughout the entire book. He dreams of being human while his owner, Denny dreams of being a race car driver. Enzo watches Denny succeed, meet the love of his life Eve and the birth of their daughter Zoe. Even though Enzo isn’t all that impressed with Eve in the beginning, he plays an essential role in an event surrounding Eve. Enzo is also there for the most heart wrenching time in Denny’s life.

Enzo is the perfect narrator for this story. He is extremely likable, kind and supportive, just like a dog should be. I also really appreciated the quirks of dog behavior explained by Enzo, like when he destroys on of Zoe’s stuffed animals  as he thought there was something evil about it. The reasons behind his actions make perfect sense to him and it’s pretty humorous, especially for those that have dogs and are familiar with some of their strange behaviors. Enzo also offers some amazing pieces of advice because, as Enzo puts it, he listens.

“Here’s why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot talk, so I listen very well. I never deflect the course of the conversation with a comment of my own.”

Enzo summed up the essence of the novel with these next few quotes:

“There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.”

Enzo never gave up on Denny, and Denny never gave up on his family.

“The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles – preferably of his own making – in order to triumph.”

The ending is remarkable. It left me smiling from ear to ear and ear.  Stein is a remarkable story-teller and he knows how to satisfy his readers. His style is easy to read and humorous with added philosophical bits. Let me also just say, that I have no interest in any form of race car driving, yet in reading this book I found the topic intriguing as Stein was able to make the content accessible to any reader. Overall I would say that this is a definite read for any dog lover or those looking for a feel-good novel.

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Filed under 4 Star, Throwback Review

Grey Cats by Adam Biles

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4/5 stars.
Read from February 20 to 22, 2013
ebook, 101 pages.

Another little throwback review to a great indie read that I discovered almost 2 years ago today as part of an Author/Reader discussion on the TNBBC.  I wrote my thoughts out immediately on the novel as I was little taken back by the small, but awesome book.

 I feel the need to read this book again even though I just finished it. There was so much going on in this short novel that I fear I didn’t fully absorb it all. Having said that, wow! Adam Biles you are a master with words. I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamic and unique metaphors that followed this intriguing plot and I truly appreciated the style and talent of the writing. It was refreshing!

This story is philosophical, humourous, tragic and inspiring. The narrator (who is never actually named, nor did I noticed until it was brought up in discussion) goes out at night in his home of Paris to track down his girlfriend, Melina. She regularly goes out like this and up until now the narrator has never asked why, as she is a night person and he is a day person. While out looking for his lover he is shown a whole other side to the Paris he knows by day. The descriptions and scenes are carnival and dream like and they take the reader on a roller-coaster experience that has a shocking ending.

“In ze night, all ze cats are grey.”

This quote, found in the book, I feel describes the narrator and why he is unnamed, as well as Melina and the rest of the lost souls in the Paris night world. They’re hiding in shadows away from themselves and their past  the night to search of an identity among others in similar situations in which, the narrator in the end, finds himself through Melina.

I also found this book strikingly and peculiarly romantic. The narrator delves into the feelings and details of his relationship with Melina while he is out trying to find her in this world he is not familiar with. He goes over her flaws, how they met, why they work well together and ultimately in the end how much she means to him. These reflective portions of the book felt like the only grounded part of the story as they stepped away from the dream-like adventure he is partaking in. I found that I was able to catch my breath, so to speak, from the rest of fast paced plot in these portions.

Overall a highly recommended novella for anyone looking for an awaking read by some fresh talent!

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Filed under 4 Star, Read 2013, Throwback Review, TNBBC

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

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2/5 stars.
Paperback, 351 pages.
Read from July 14 to August 06, 2015.

I wanted to like this book, I really did. I  was excited to read this book as I had never read anything by McCarthy prior to this. I had heard so many great things about him so I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t enjoy this book more. I haven’t given up on McCarthy yet though! I will read The Road, his most notorious publication before I make my final opinion on him.  

The book takes place around the Texan and Mexican border in the US during the 1850’s.  The book follows a runaway teenage boy, known only as, the kid and after getting arrested in Mexico he is acquainted with some men and works his way into joining their gang in order to get out of prison. The gang is a depiction of the historically notorious Glanton gang, who hunt for the scalps of Native American’s for profit and pleasure. After terrorizing and taking scalps the gang comes up with an idea to rob a bank, which ultimately doesn’t go well. Wounded and taking heavy losses, the remaining gang works their way through the desert where tensions within the group begin to show themselves.

I did appreciate McCarthy’s style, or lack there of in a way. McCarthy is one of the few authors that can get away without using practically any punctuation. This lack of punctuation worked really with the characters and their Texan slang but as a reader, you’re left to determine who is speaking because McCarthy never uses quotation marks. I definitely had to re-read a few pages just to follow some conversations. McCarthy also uses a substantial amount of Spanish, which he did not translate. So if you’re not familiar with Spanish, you’ll most likely have to do some translations yourself to understand what’s going on. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever looked up so many words in the dictionary before. McCarthy is a well-versed man.

I felt the most interesting parts of the book were all about the kid’s rough childhood. After he joined up with the group of men to start scalping native heads, is where I started to lose interest. Not because the book lacked for violence or because the characters were uninteresting but because I couldn’t keep track of the plot. The scenes all seemed to resemble each other in that the group of men would scalp some heads, get in trouble with the natives or the locals, then meet some new people during their journey’s through the desert and as a result a lot of people died. I know that I was guilty of skimming a few pages out of frustration with this strange plot.

I wish that this novel was more focused on the inner workings of the kid rather than the intricacies of the plot and its philosophies. This approach would make the book more pleasurable to read but it would also take away some of its ingenuity. I would recommend this book to those who are familiar with the history of the US at this time and for those who are familiar with McCarthy’s work.

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Filed under 2 Star, Classic, Historical Fiction