The MouseDoor by David Xavier


Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

3 Stars

Watercolored book cover shows a stone building with a small blue doorThe MouseDoor by David Xavier

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Life has been passing Everett by for decades, ever since a devastating accident left him standing in place. But meeting a new neighbor with dreams makes it difficult for Everett to keep standing still in The MouseDoor by author David Xavier.

I enjoyed the unrushed pace and understated storytelling in this literary fiction novella. I like not being able to predict every action a story’s characters will take and everything they’ll say. Because I’m sometimes in the mood for a more somber tone but can’t always do large doses of it, this book’s length was ideal.

Indeed, much about it felt like a perfect read for me until I ran into a particular scene: where a man is trying to get a woman to go out with him, but because she doesn’t say yes and she shows no interest and gives him no encouragement, he takes her off guard by going ahead and kissing her. If anyone would like me to explain why that kind of thing is neither romantic nor okay, you’re welcome to ask.

On a technical note, the book has a moderate amount of incorrect punctuation (though it might be intentional) and a few additional grammar/spelling issues. There’s also a minimal amount of language including a few “deity swears,” which more conservative readers may want to be aware of.

Even so, the writing style is deft overall. I especially appreciated this serious love story’s climax, and the ending is a hopeful one. I plan to try at least one more book by this author.

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Lost and Found by Jessica Marie Holt


Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

5 Stars

Book cover shows a small boat on the water near a shore, with a soft pastel sunset in the backgroundLost and Found by Jessica Marie Holt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Changes of heart.


Yes, Lost and Found by author Jessica Marie Holt is only about thirty pages long. But by no means is it a light, thin, or simplistic tale.

This powerful story is as contemplative, understated, and lovely as its book cover, with a depth of emotion and understanding. The few characters feel like real, ordinary people, experiencing the painful and beautiful wonder that is life. Life that goes on.

I never say anything too specific about the events in this author’s short stories. I really couldn’t do the plots justice without giving too much away. But I can’t recommend her short stories enough, especially to fans of serious, substantive, and ultimately uplifting fiction.

As I’ve said before, this author is one of the best short story writers I’ve found. And maybe one of these days I’ll get through one of her quick reads without crying.

Just maybe.

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“We Own This Place.” An Excerpt from World of the Innocent

Marcas went to rest flat on his back in the grass, and he advised me to do the same, but I wasn’t used to being on the ground without a blanket or anything, so I sat there with my knees up.

“Lie back, Jhoi. This is nature.”

“Yes, nature is lovely. But that doesn’t mean I want it all over my clothes or in my hair.”

“Your clothes? That’s my jacket you’re wearing.”

“I know. But, still.”

Marcas laughed, linking his fingers behind the hat on his head, and he went on to tell me about the stars and the distant planet we were looking at. I wasn’t sure if he was serious about everything he was saying or if he was merely making some of it up, but it all sounded knowledgeable enough, and it was a pleasure listening to him.

“You’re such a wiggly,” Marcas sighed in the middle of his discourse about the stars. “You worry too much.”

“Do I?” I asked, not moving my eyes from the sky, knowing he was right.

“You’re most Jhoiful when you’re being yourself, you know. Not being afraid. Letting people watch you, listen to your words.”

“My words.” I shook my head. “Yes, I have words, all right. I often wish I had so much more, though.” I turned to look at Marcas then. “Words are words.”

“Yes. They are.” Marcas sat up pretty quickly. “And words are power. Words change minds. Words can dominate. They bolster faith. Inability isn’t always the only reason why we fail to do things. A lot of times, we don’t do what we should because we don’t believe we can anymore.” Marcas reached up to lift his hat a ways, scratching at his head. “Not everyone we watch has to be someone we think must have already ‘arrived’ in every way possible. Sometimes we just need to see someone who still has the faith to tell us that we can get there. We just need someone who believes.”

I stared at Marcas as he stood to his feet, brushing blades of grass from his clothes. “I think our dinner has settled,” he said. “Let’s go for a run.”

“Go for a run?” I looked out at the field. “Now?”

“Of course now. Look around! What time would be better? Come on, Ladybug. This is our world,” Marcas answered, beginning to make his way down the hill. “We own this place.”

Watching Marcas take off through the grass, I thought to remain sitting there and to call after him. Ours? The Bible says the earth is the Lord’s. But I couldn’t ignore the sudden rush of restless vigor that shot through my legs, and before I knew it, I was up and giggling, chasing Marcas down the hill.

It was possible that any one in our audience of stars or distant city lights may have been wondering what these two, laughing adults were doing, running and playing in a field at night.

I’d never seen Marcas run before…

Pick up a copy of World of the Innocent as a standalone or in a sweet love story collection, Jhoi.

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The Small Rain by Madeleine L’Engle


Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

3 Stars

Black and white and teal book cover shows the bottom half of a serious young woman's faceThe Small Rain by Madeleine L’Engle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Young Katherine Forrester’s mother and father are both accomplished musical artists. But Katherine’s difficult and enlightening path as a pianist can’t and won’t be forged by riding on either of her parents’ coattails in The Small Rain by author Madeleine L’Engle.

What I said about this novel nearly ten years ago:

“Beyond the look into the life of a serious artist, this story exposes a young woman who, in her earlier years, cannot seem to help being herself… Katherine is a character who, for whatever reasons, simply cannot live (what would be for her) a façade of a life. To me, that’s what’s most valuable about this book.”

Oh, this pretty somber kind of literary fiction isn’t my usual kind of read. Upon witnessing Katherine’s coming of age for the second time, it took a while before I remembered why I first appreciated this novel the way I did. Yes, it usually gets hard for me when reading about characters who don’t exactly seem to know how to…be happy, even when they’re happy, and I wish they wouldn’t drink so much.

Yet, I have to admit there’s still something I understand about odd artist-types I don’t understand. (I’m an odd artist-type myself.) And what Katherine comes to realize in this story is much like what I once came to realize for myself, even though my journey to realization was different from hers.

What’s more, because this author can let enigmas be enigmas, and she knows how to work an understatement instead of slathering on conspicuous layers of woe at every turn, reading through this serious but ultimately hopeful book was no chore for me.

I’m looking forward to rereading the sequel.

Note to my blog readers: This is a PG-13-ish book that contains some sensual material, including a fade-to-black “bedroom” scene, and the book has some language I wouldn’t use, but no F-bombs.

Go to A Severed Wasp on Goodreads

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