Book Review: The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George

The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George book coverPicked this one up at the South Jersey Writers’ Group monthly book swap. I’d never heard of the author or the series, but it had a few wishes on www.paperbackswap.com and I’d just finished another book, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I was totally hooked in the first chapter. A girl who can hear other people’s thoughts learns a dangerous secret, and she and her mother head from California to a remote island in the Pacific Northwest (win!) to escape her stepfather and his secret. Her mom drops her off at the ferry to stay with an old friend, a woman Becca has never met, with a cell phone and a promise that she’d be there as soon as she took care of a few things. Great premise, right?

But then…well. I think the best way to describe the whole thing was “contrived.” Whidbey Island, in my head, was like a movie set seen off-camera — houses with only the fronts and curtains where it shows, fake trees with fog on cue, convenient empty buildings, random strangers with impeccable timing, characters that were supposed to be acting one way but were actually acting another.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the plan does not go, er, as planned. Becca meets a boy, Seth, who is beyond nice, but who also seems to be the object of many other townspeople’s hate, for reasons that aren’t really fully developed until the second half of the book. Then she has a strange attraction to a popular boy, who seems to like her too, for NO REASON whatsoever? And Becca also makes an enemy, a raging, angry b** who is determined to make Becca’s life miserable, again, for NO APPARENT REASON. (Or maybe to be more accurate, the evil and hatred directed toward Becca is not in proportion to Becca’s actions against her antagonist.) And then, Derrick, the popular boy, gets into a bad accident, and Becca and Seth have to figure out the mystery.

I am not a huge fan of “reactive” characters, who let things happen to them and then make stupid decisions. I am also not a fan of characters with unreasonably low self-esteem, although I usually give them a chance. Becca King fit both of these descriptions, and while I felt bad for her, I wanted to shake her a little and say “stop wallowing and DO something already.” Derrick was really the only character who was believable, meaning that the author said he was popular and his actions and the perceptions of the other characters backed this up.

Another thing I didn’t like was that the book is entirely in Becca’s head (in 3rd person limited) for the first half, but then inexplicably, we hop back and forth to other points of view for the second half. It would have been okay if we’d had these people’s opinions in the beginning, but it felt really out of context and I didn’t like that there was no warning! There was a lot of character development and backstory that didn’t seem to have anything to do with either the mystery of Derrick’s accident or Becca’s mystery. And besides, I kept waiting for one of the other characters to give us a positive opinion on all the things Becca didn’t like about herself, or at least some clue as to why they wanted to help her out. But it didn’t really happen. All the other characters verified that Becca was a little heavy and had ugly hair, and they all appeared to pity her, even though she wouldn’t tell anyone about why she had been exiled. No mention of any kind of personality. And very little personality in the character herself.

All in all, it was a boring mystery within a more interesting mystery, but the interesting mystery was hardly touched on. And there was a lot going on; it was hard to keep track of the characters and their actions. Oh well. It appears that this is a series, but I am probably not interested enough to keep reading. I’d like to know the ending to the interesting mystery though!

Here’s a link to my Goodreads review! Be my friend! What are you reading this week?

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Book Review: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer Book Cover

I’ll be honest, I came into this expecting not to like it much, because 1) I knew the story of McCandless, and had already formed opinions, and 2) I completely and totally LOVED the movie, from the howling, gorgeous Eddie Vedder soundtrack to the adorable shirtless Emile and the breathtaking cinematography. (I even liked Kristen Stewart’s awkwardness. #irony.)

So all that combined, plus being a dweeby adventure wannabe myself, I expected to just write this off, reading it because all my other adventure friends had read it. Guy shoulda been more prepared, why dinnhe take a map, etc. But I liked the story, the piecing together of McCandless’s last years, and correlating the adventure-seeker in human nature with other famous (and infamous) wilderness-seekers over the years. It wasn’t quite as lovely as the movie, and Vince Vaughn wasn’t there, but it was still an interesting exploration of mankind’s spirit of adventure.

Be my friend on Goodreads!

In other news, still managing to stay in full-on NaNoWriMo mode; hoping to finally finish my NaNo Blog post today!

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Book Review: Reached by Ally Condie (Matched Trilogy)

Reached CoverCassia is reunited with Ky and Xander, in the last book of this dystopian romantic triangle. They have joined the Rising (ok that’s probably not a spoiler) and are infiltrating back into Society to engineer its takedown. But separately, much to their disappointment. But as it turns out, the Rising is not all they believed it was. The revolution is as divided and infiltrated as the institution. Cassia and Ky have to decide who they will be loyal to, and, well, I’m sure you can guess they will only be loyal to each other.

This book hopped around quickly from Cassia to Ky to Xander, and I liked the different, quicker pace, although it did take a little getting used to. Unfortunately though, much like in Crossed, the poetic style overlaid across all points of view sort of muted the differences in the character, and sometimes I had to double check the name at the beginning of the chapter to figure out where I was. There were, however, a couple of parts that just completely had me holding my breath. It’s tough to convey such urgency while still keeping the poetic tone, but I think for the most part it worked (probably due to the present tense writing)

On a somewhat unrelated note, a friend of mine (who also loaned me the books!) told me that her students hate Xander. How can you hate Xander?! I ended up just feeling very sorry for him. I liked having his point of view, actually, and I was probably more interested in (and surprised by) the continuation of his story, than with Cassia and Ky’s happy ending.

Overall I liked this series, and would recommend it. It was pretty different in style, I think, than the books I generally read, but I thought it worked. (Hooray for stretching boundaries.)

One final note, if I haven’t convinced you to dive into the series yet, pretty much the whole thing is based on the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Gentle Into That Good Night.” And now I hope you’re convinced. :)

(And here’s the link to my review on Goodreads)

And now that this series is done…next review is a book I helped publish! Not YA, not dystopian (okay maybe a little dystopian), not fantasy (okay, it’s a little fantasy too), but a satire on what life is like after you’ve died. (!)

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Book Review: Crossed by Ally Condie (Matched Trilogy)

So much for blogging every week! I keep falling off the wagon! But NaNoWriMo is coming, and I sure don’t want to miss a whole month of blogging…. getting a few ready for the future. :)

Anyway, here’s my review of “Crossed” by Ally Condie. I finished this ages ago, like in September! #slacking

Crossed Cover

Cassia has been separated from Ky and Xander, and wrangles her way out to the Outer Provinces, where, after a series of near-misses, she finally meets up with Ky, and the enemy of the Society, joining forces to try to take it down from the inside.

This book alternates between Ky’s and Cassia’s points of view, and I like the format. The description of the Carving is lovely, and I like the idea of a small alcove of rebels living out of range of the Society, preserving a little of the life they used to have. Is it for naught?

Jeez I’m pretty bad at book reviews. How do you go into detail without giving too much away? I want people to read the book, not find out what happens. At any rate, the poetic feeling continues, and I like it, although I think overall I’m still slightly against present-tense writing. I also like Cassia’s new “friend,” Ivie, and Ky’s interaction with his compadre in the Outer Provinces, Vick.

In other news, apparently a “Matched” movie is in the works (woohoo!), and you can download a Party Kit from the book’s official website. Guess what I’ll be doing for the premiere!

(And here’s the link to this review on Goodreads, not sure why my little widget thingy isn’t working…)

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Book Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Matched cover

So I am riding right along with this dystopian-teenager-must-save-the-world theme. I adored the Hunger Games, and was totally hooked by the Maze Runner. And I found this story completely captivating. The Society annoyingly perfectly evil, Cassia apparently bland, and perfectly perfect as well….and then it all starts to crumble. Loved the way the flaws in the perfect world were slowly revealed, even though Cassia was way ahead of me it felt like walls being torn down, bit by bit, the more you learned about the Society and its ways.

Generally not a fan of love triangles, but this one is devastating and totally works for me. I loved the writing style too; the whole book felt like a poem almost. Great story, although I probably cheated this review by reading the entire series before reviewing the first book. Will be reviewing the next two in the series, Crossed and Reached soon!

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Book Review: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Books make Monday better, so I’ll be posting my Goodreads book reviews on Monday. Yay!

Found this one on Paperback Swap because one of my GR groups recommended it, but I can’t remember which one to give them props! So glad I did, this was an adorable story.

The story is about Azalea, the oldest of 12, left with overwhelming sadness–and responsibilities–when her mother dies. Their father the king has outlawed dancing for an entire year for mourning, but the girls find some old magic left in the castle….and a secret ballroom where an ancient Keeper allows them to dance all night long. But not without a price.

The characters are sweet, fairytale imperfect. The 12 sisters are impressively named, in alphabetical order, after flowers. And somehow the author managed to give them all distinct personalities. Azalea’s “gentleman” is a doll and even the strict, fussy king is endearing. I loved the detail in the description of the dances. The crumbling, drafty castle with its history of dance, and the kingdom with its politics made for a captivating setting.

Thought 12 sisters was a little much until I found out it was based on a fairytale called The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Never heard of it but I looked it up and the Grimm version was dry as dust. This was a great retelling. I smell a Disney movie!!

I finished a few weeks ago, let’s see if I can remember…Azalea (eldest), Bramble (the troublemaker), Clover (shy little miss perfect), Delphinium (the drama queen), Eve (short for Evening Primrose!) the bookworm, Flora and Goldenrod (twins, quiet, stuck in the middle), Hollyhock (the stubborn one), Ivy (loves to eat!), Jessamine (scared), Kale (a toddler–what a horrible name), and the baby Lily, born the night mother died. Yessss, score one point in the useless trivia category.

Hoping to read more from this author! Apparently she is an animator for Disney Interactive, so maybe the Disney movie could still be a thing. In the meantime, check out the book trailer, it’s gorgeous. I think from the comments the author did it herself!

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New blog design, and birthday reflections

I finally bit the bullet and paid for shiny WordPress colors…Consider it a birthday present to myself. Wow, I really need to get out more.

Anyway, have been reflecting a lot on the big 3-5. Thirty-four was pretty rough–a layoff, a somewhat serious illness that set me back (and I think is still suspiciously lingering), no forward progress on the new house and a significant lack of adventures.

But, I’ve spent a lot of time working on the South Jersey Writers’ Group, and we’re headed in a great new direction. Thanks to the amazing K.A. Magrowski and the rest of our Board Members and committees, hopefully soon I’ll be more on the sit back and enjoying more end–and hopefully, I’ll have more time to write too! Also made a bit of progress on the Race the World Challenge, although still failing at posting photos and trip reports.

Of course, it’s about making the time, right? Hard to make time for everything! But I think by the time I hit my 36th birthday, I want to say I’ve finished a novel, and I suppose I’ll have published a second and third short story collection too! Ok, and next year I also want to hike Mount Mansfield in Vermont. I did almost zero hiking in my 34th year. Time to get back into that. Have some other plans too, but baby steps. More sleep would be good too, but wouldn’t put any money on that one! Too many exciting things on the horizon, although if I keep up this pace through another year, all I’ll want to do is sleep!

Cheers for Another Year

Cheers for Another Year

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