I’ve been reading a lot of shorter novels, so this is going to be a bit of a hodge podge of reviews.
The Escape Diaries: Life and Love on the Lam by Juliet Rosetti is an absolutely charming romp of a debut. Reminiscent of Jennifer Crusie in a lot of ways, it’s less a romance and more a screwball comedy with a sweet little romance on top.
Mazie Maguire is serving a life sentence in a Wisconsin prison for the murder of her husband, Kip Vonnerjohn. But there’s one catch: she didn’t do it. When a tornado touches down when she’s out picking tomatoes on work detail, she takes her chances and escapes into the woods.
In addition to the tornado, there’s a murderous ex-mother-in-law who sends her poisoned cookies, an exploding wall of toilets, a grain elevator and manure pile, a sympathetic Canadian cameraman, and a fairy godmother named Magenta.
I really really really enjoyed this book–Mazie’s narrative voice is matter of fact and the chapter titles are hilarious. I also loved the way this was firmly rooted in place–this wasn’t just a generic Midwest setting, it felt very much as I imagine Wisconsin to be–I’ve never been to Wisconsin, but I am from Michigan and there are certain cultural similarities among us upper Midwest types.
If you’re looking for something fun and satisfying to distract you from the impending holidays (if you have holidays coming up, that is), you really can’t go wrong with this book.
Karla Doyle’s More Than Words, though, was a bit of a disappointment. Right after I finished it, I had a warm fuzzy glow about the book, but the more I thought about it and after reading Brie’s review I found myself agreeing with her assessment (darn it–I was looking forward to arguing about it with her).
Calli owns a sex toy/lingerie shop and she doesn’t go outside after dark, not since she was attacked en route to the bank a number of years ago. Luckily, she lives above the shop so she is able to still maintain a veneer of normalcy in her life (although I did wonder how her business stayed in business–wouldn’t she want to be open evenings at least one night a week?).
Travis is the guitar player in a band on the verge of making it big. He’s been a big fan of no-strings-attached sex and has decided to look for something more meaningful from someone who is into him for more than his axe.
So both Calli and Travis log on to a Scrabble dating site (hence the reason people have been calling this the “dirty Scrabble book” on Twitter) and meet each other. For someone with a deep seated trauma about going outside after dark, Calli is extremely free with her personal information and gives Travis enough information so that he is able to find her with a minimum of online stalking.
There’s a lot of sex in this book and it didn’t really seem to move the relationship forward very much and the arguments between Travis and Calli didn’t feel very authentic to me and the last half of the book felt rushed.
Finally, I don’t know what version of Scrabble they were playing but whatever it was, it always gave them exactly the letters they needed to make flirtatious words and high scores at the same time. This has never been my experience playing Scrabble. I usually end up with a rack full of Q’s, X’s, and K’s.
The set up for this is pretty simple: Nearly 30 year old virgin Caroly Evardt hires Parisian prostitute Didier Pedra.
However, they both have issues: Didier has agoraphobia and hasn’t left his apartment in three years and Caroly has this weird hang-up about good looking men–which she recognizes as weird and the reason why she’s never been in a relationship with anyone. I really liked Caroly a lot–I like the way she admitted she was a mean and unpleasant kid and I liked her hang-ups.
Caroly arrives at Didier’s apartment one rainy evening for their first date. Even though she’s paying him for the experience, she still feels awkward and like she’s intruding, but Didier puts her at ease by explaining that she is the one in complete control of whatever happens that evening. It takes some time, but she eventually relaxes around him–and that’s about the time she stops seeing him as a thing and starts to see him as a human being. Once that happens, there’s an emotional connection and Caroly can feel herself beginning to become attached to Didier–so she ends their professional relationship and since she doesn’t want to presume, she leaves it at that.
Didier, though, doesn’t want Caroly to leave his life and even though it takes him three days, he manages to leave his apartment to find her at her job to let her know. It’s really lovely. I love Caroly’s voice and her growing confidence in herself as a sexual being and I love the way she’s so understanding and sympathetic to Didier.
These things only become more apparent in the vignettes, as they explore each other more thoroughly–both sexually and out in the world. Didier’s increased willingness to push his boundaries nicely mirrors Caroly’s. This relationship may have begun as a business transaction but ends up as something much greater.
There is a lot of sex in these stories–the emotional arc between Caroly and Didier is very much tied to their sexual exploration–but it never feels gratuitous or exploitative.
Also, there are perverted pigeons. How can you not love that?