Tag: journey

April 18, 2016

Review | After the Woods by Kim Savage

Review | After the Woods by Kim SavageAfter the Woods by Kim Savage
, February 2016
Pages: 305
Format: Hardcover
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Would you risk your life to save your best friend?

Julia did. When a paroled predator attacked Liv in the woods, Julia fought back and got caught. Liv ran, leaving Julia in the woods for a terrifying 48 hours that she remembers only in flashbacks. One year later, Liv seems bent on self-destruction, starving herself, doing drugs, and hooking up with a violent new boyfriend. A dead girl turns up in those same woods, and Julia’s memories resurface alongside clues unearthed by an ambitious reporter that link the girl to Julia’s abductor. As the devastating truth becomes clear, Julia realizes that after the woods was just the beginning.

Julia doesn’t know how to live her life after the woods.

She doesn’t want the attention, the weird looks, the flashbacks, or the nightmares. She doesn’t want to be afraid of trees or go to the therapist who wants her to act out what happened with dolls.

When her best friend was attacked as they ran through the forest late one afternoon, Julia acted instinctively, throwing herself in harm’s way so Liv could escape. Now, nearing a year later, the demons are back to haunt her. Yet something is off…but Julia can’t quite put her finger on what. Curious by nature, she takes it into her own hands to unravel the mystery.

As a girl who loves to run, this book scared the daylights out of me. The fear of being attacked while I’m out for a run is something that keeps me on my toes (great article on how to stay safe running alone here), but as I read, I realized After the Woods isn’t a story about what happened in the woods. It’s a story about growing up, growing out of friendships, and realizing others’ demons.

Some people respond to traumatic events by crawling inside themselves and refusing to talk about it. Julia deals with her abduction in a variation of this, but instead of closing herself off from it, she becomes borderline obsessed with getting to the bottom of her abductor’s motives. When Ana, another girl out jogging in the woods, turns up dead, Julia’s first instinct is to investigate.

I loved Julia’s narrative: she’s rightfully wary, slightly defensive, and sarcastic by nature, portraying the events and people around her with an arm’s length and a careful view. The few people she does decide to let close to her, including the local TV news anchor and Kellan, the cute boy whose dad was the head detective on her case, are the few she shares with, but she keeps her biggest suspicion close to her chest.

The writing was clever: Julia’s slow upacking of her memories of the woods brought flashbacks and conversations with Liv to help complete the picture. The anniversary of her attack forces Julia to revisit her memories and look at those around her in an entirely new way. It’s at this moment that she realizes the woods has changed her.

While the writing was beautiful and the plot done well, I felt like I was missing things, especially how View Spoiler ». I’m sure this connection was made, but even after going back in the pages to find the answer, I was still at a loss. This is the only drawback to Savage’s otherwise fantastic debut.

4 Stars

Posted April 18, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 1 Comment
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April 4, 2016

Review | Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Review | Saint Anything by Sarah DessenSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking, May 2015
Pages: 417
Format: Hardcover
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Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.
The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

There’s always a lot of focus on those involved in accidents. The what-ifs, the wonderings and sometimes the anger. Rarely do we think about those that aren’t directly involved in the accidents, but are just as broken as those who are.

When Sydney’s brother Peyton, the family golden child, starts down a bad road, the family tries to pull him back. But Peyton’s poor decisions end up in a horrible drunk-driving accident and a jail sentence, throwing his and his family’s world into chaos. Sydney’s family, trying to learn how to keep it together, is falling apart: her mother obsession with Peyton’s well-being blinds her to what’s going on in her own home, Sydney’s dad is trying to keep the peace, and Sydney just doesn’t know where she fits in anymore. That all changes when she meets the slightly chaotic but lovable Chatham family.

I’ve read a lot of books that deal with the power of grief, but none that so poignantly portray the painful, long-lasting effects that one person’s actions have on a family. Peyton and the teenager weren’t the only ones harmed by the drunk-driving accident; it shattered many people’s worlds. I like how Dessen met the topic head-on and explored how the decisions we make don’t only affect us, but those we love. Peyton’s decisions affect Sydney, destroying their relationship and her relationship with their parents. The grief and shame Sydney carries with her makes it hard for her to move on, to rebuild her life and relationships.

I loved the warm chaos of the Chathams. They’re the family that always made you feel at home the moment you walked through the door, who didn’t mind if you stopped by just for a chat. The loving support system that emulated from the household was exactly what Sydney needed to get her feet back under her and face her fears.

The one character that left me extremely unnerved (as I think he was intended to) was Peyton’s friend, Ames. Ames is, to put it simply, incredibly creepy. He slowly slides into Peyton’s empty place in the family and (constantly) oversteps his boundaries with Sydney. He acts as a thermostat in the family: early on, Sydney’s parents don’t notice anything strange about his actions, but as the story progresses, the rose-colored glasses come off. Sydney herself can be measured against Ames’ actions in Saint Anything – her disgust at his actions and instinct to stand up for herself grows with the story.

I’m late to the Dessen fan group, but I can say that this won’t be my last novel of hers. Saint Anything was clever, occasionally funny and incredibly heart-warming.

4 Stars

Posted April 4, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 21, 2015

Review | Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood

Review | Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi WoodMrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood
Publisher: Penguin Books, May 2014
Pages: 322
Format: Hardcover
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The Paris Wife was only the beginning of the story . . .
Paula McLain’s New York Times–bestselling novel piqued readers’ interest about Ernest Hemingway’s romantic life. But Hadley was only one of four women married, in turn, to the legendary writer. Just as T.C. Boyle’s bestseller The Women completed the picture begun by Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank, Naomi Wood’s Mrs. Hemingway tells the story of how it was to love, and be loved by, the most famous and dashing writer of his generation. As each wife struggles with his mistress for Ernest’s heart, and a place in his bed, each marriage slips from tenderness to treachery. Each Mrs. Hemingway thought it would last forever. Each one was wrong.
Told in four parts and populated with members of the fabled “Lost Generation”—including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald—Mrs. Hemingway interweaves the love letters, diaries, and telegrams of four very different women into one spellbinding tale.

We have a strange obsession with Ernest Hemingway. Even after 89 years since his first novel was published (The Sun Also Rises), Hemingway’s legend lives on. It’s so powerful that I even use a writing app, Hemingway Editor, to make my writing more concise. Despite his strong legacy, I didn’t expect Wood’s Mrs. Hemingway to be so compelling.

Ernest Hemingway was a busy guy; with four wives, it’s amazing that he had any time to write. Mrs. Hemingway begins with his first wife, Hadley Hemingway, mulling over her husband, their mutual friend, and her mixed emotions. Hadley’s character depiction was just the beginning: Wood creates each of the four wives as powerful and emotionally-charged characters.

I was a little put off when I realized that each wife had her turn at narration, but Wood’s compelling writing style knocks this typically tricky narrative out the park. To make each woman – Hadley, Fife, Martha, and Mary – stand out as an individual and make the narration so smooth is quite an accomplishment and makes for an in-depth, intensive read. I felt Hadley’s uncertainty, her jealousy, her relief. I recognized Fife’s intense emotions, ranging from the feelings of a real first love to a mad rage. I admired Martha for her guts, realizing that this life, whatever it was, wasn’t for her. Mary’s strength was dim at first (she and Martha’s first conversation took me aback a bit), but her steadiness and courage were remarkable.

I found myself admiring these women, and through their eyes, seeing a new version of the legendary Ernest Hemingway. Mrs. Hemingway is a remarkable story, one that holds up the standard of the historical fiction genre, and one of my new favorite reads.

4 Stars

Posted August 21, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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May 1, 2015

Review | At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

Title: At the Water’s Edge
Author: Sara Gruen
Publication Date: March 2015
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Source & Format: Netgalley; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes  & Noble

After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants. The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love. 



When I saw that Gruen’s book was blurbed as a “Scottish Downton Abbey,” I knew I had to read it. Everything about At the Water’s Edge called my name, from the book’s description to the gorgeous cover and typography title. 




I liked Maddie, but for the good first half of the novel, it was hard to identify with her, or any of the other characters, for that matter. They lived in a world so far removed from my own that the chasm between us felt impossible to cross. Even after Maddie and Ellis lose their home and leave to explore Scotland with Hank, there was an air of entitlement. Both men are rejected from the military for different reasons and live with a forced bravado, one they wear as a shield in the harsh environment in the first world war. Hank and Ellis lived as rich playboys, no thought or care in the world except their own.




Maddie had flashes of clarity, but for the most part, she went along with their hare-brained schemes. When she had a change of heart and finally opened her eyes, I found the heroine I had been searching for. She developed into her own person instead of the pretty shell she had been with Ellis and Hank. 



Although I didn’t immediately understand the initial opening scenes with Mairi, I loved how her story connected with Maddie’s. Although horribly heartbreaking, Mairi’s scenes not only set the tone for the story, but the metaphors and the story’s arc. Gruen’s work opens with great emotion and closes the same way. 

I expected Gruen’s work to be a romance, but she surprised me. Instead of focusing on the romance, At the Water’s Edge is the story of a woman coming into her own, finding herself, and learning how to stand up for herself. The romance was just the cherry on top.


Posted May 1, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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October 24, 2014

Review | Ain’t She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Title: Ain’t She Sweet?
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips {website}
Publication Date: February 2004
Publisher: Piatkus Books
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Ain’t She Sweet?
Not exactly . . .The girl everybody loves to hate has returned to the town she’d sworn to leave behind forever. As the rich, spoiled princess of Parrish, Mississippi, Sugar Beth Carey had broken hearts, ruined friendships, and destroyed reputations. But fifteen years have passed, and life has taught Sugar Beth its toughest lessons. Now she’s come home — broke, desperate, and too proud to show it.

The people of Parrish don’t believe in forgive and forget. When the Seawillows, Sugar Beth’s former girlfriends, get the chance to turn the tables on her, they don’t hesitate. And Winnie Davis, Sugar Beth’s most bitter enemy, intends to humiliate her in the worst possible way.

Then there’s Colin Byrne. . . . Fifteen years earlier, Sugar Beth had tried to ruin his career. Now he’s rich, powerful, and the owner of her old home. Even worse, this modern-day dark prince is planning exactly the sort of revenge best designed to bring a beautiful princess to her knees.

But none of them have reckoned on the unexpected strength of a woman who’s learned survival the hard way.

While Sugar Beth’s battered heart struggles to overcome old mistakes, Colin must choose between payback and love. Does the baddest girl in town deserve a second chance, or are some things beyond forgiving?

Ain’t She Sweet? is a story of courage and redemption. . . of friendship and laughter. . . of love and the possibility of happily-ever-after.





I won’t lie to you: there were points where this book was downright painful to read. Sugar Beth Carey was the girl in high school that the boys wanted to date and the girls wanted to be. Unfortunately, more often than not, teenage Sugar Beth used her power for evil instead of good…a decision that comes back to haunt her. 


Sugar Beth herself is a fascinating character. I didn’t want to like her, but it was dang near impossible not to fall in love with the fiery, spirited, and secretly soft woman that made up the legend of Sugar Beth Carey in the small town of Parrish. Even before I knew her motives before returning home, I felt for the woman who had to face the mess the girl had created. Her defensive posture of sarcasm and flirtation made me laugh even when I cringed, but as the story grew, so did her character. 


It isn’t often that the male romantic hero has the same kind of character transformation as his counterpart, but Colin Bryne was equally fascinating. True, he didn’t have the same drama and pride that Sugar Beth carried with her, but he had a full history, a past that forced his character to evolve from Sugar Beth’s memories to the man she warred with over the driveway. I enjoyed his depth, his emotions, and most of all, his struggles against the hurt Sugar Beth caused his twenty-two year old self and the gallant man who dreamed of rescuing her. 


Phillips’ writing catches me every time: it’s impossible to not sink into her stories, to feel the emotions of every character, even the minor ones. The minor characters themselves felt fully fleshed out; I felt I knew Jewel, the Seawillows, and the men who howled in the night under Sugar Beth’s window. Each was personal, memorable, which is quite a feat considering what else was going on in the story at the time.


Most of all, Ain’t She Sweet made me feel. It was a roller coaster ride, one I didn’t want to put down (even while I cooked dinner). Sugar Beth’s story grabbed me by the heart and I couldn’t help but go along for the ride. 


THE RATING:

Posted October 24, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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September 5, 2014

Review | My Life in a Nutshell by Tanya J. Peterson

Title: My Life in a Nutshell
Author: Tanya J. Peterson
Publication Date: May 2014
Publisher: Inkwater Press
Source & Format: Provided by Author; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel is the story of one man’s struggles with debilitating anxiety. Brian Cunningham has isolated himself to such a degree that his human contact is barely more than an hour a day. While lonely, he feels powerless to change his life. Unexpectedly, his safe little world is invaded by one Abigail Harris, a seven-year-old girl who, for the last five years, has bounced from foster home to foster home. She has come to live with an aunt and uncle she has never known. Unsure if she can trust her new environment, she turns to Brian. Neither one quite knows how to live in the world. Can they possibly help each other?


I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the author. This in no way influenced my opinion or review. Promise!


Here’s the thing about Peterson’s work: her characters are key. Peterson isn’t afraid to show the true side of human nature, to open doors that society has slammed closed, and examine what truly makes us tick. 


I fell in love with her two main characters in My Life in a Nutshell. Brian, the narrator, shines through his narrative voice. There’s a quiet struggle inside him, a war between his anxiety and his yearning to live his life that is simply fascinating. His tendency towards over-analyzing and struggling with what others think of him struck a chord in me: he and I are alike in that. 


There’s a magic in the friendship between Brian and Abigail, a magic so simple and pure that makes it one of the highlights of My Life. They find a kinship in each other, two people searching for a place, whether it be physically or mentally, to call home. Their story was one of the reasons I kept turning back to this book. 


Peterson’s approach to therapy and the social stigma attached to it was right on the mark for me. I loved the warm therapist who gently pushes Brian beyond the realms of his anxiety. Therapy isn’t portrayed as scary or negative; even the therapist is in therapy. I loved how Peterson knocks down that social roadblock.


The narration itself, told from Brian’s first person POV, can be a little thick. I loved the opportunity to learn his character, but I appreciated the scenes with dialogue with Abigail or other characters, giving me the opportunity to see his full character.


In the end, Peterson strikes gold again with My Life in a Nutshell. For those who loved Leave of Absence, she brings the same depth of character and plot that we fell in love with. I loved My Life in a Nutshell and I can’t wait to see what she does next.


THE RATING:


Posted September 5, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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August 30, 2014

The Canon Classics | A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Title: A Wrinkle in Time
Author: Madeleine L’Engle
Publication Date: This edition {2007} Original {1962}
Publisher: This edition {Square Fish}
Series: A Wrinkle in Time Quintet {Book 1}
Source & Format: Library; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem. 



Over the past few years, I’ve noticed how movies, books and ideas I loved as a child have affected the person I have become. Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, for one, introduced me to the world of books and reading (I’m still waiting for my Hogwarts letter…) and taught me it’s okay to be smart like Hermione. The Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler taught me it was okay to be a little nosy (and I still dream about hiding out in a museum for the night. Thanks for technology, I’m not entirely sure this is possible…). Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time slipped to the back of my memory, but when I opened the page and reunited with nerdy Meg Murry, I felt at home. 


Meg, unlike many of the YA heroines I read as a kid, isn’t exactly an Everygirl: she’s brilliant. Her entire family, ranging from her gorgeous scientist mother to her unnervingly smart little brother, Charles Wallace, possesses a gift of one kind or another. What made Meg relatable was her struggles at school, with herself, and with the missing status of her father. Her concern about the welfare of her family led her to fistfights with (older and bigger) boys because she didn’t know how else to make them stop. This same girl recited the periodic table of elements later in the book (shamefully, I wouldn’t be able to get past the first few). Meg’s love for her family, as erratic and unusual as they were, shone through. 


In many YA adventures and heroic journeys, the themes can often be a little too blunt for my taste. L’Engle wove the power and importance of love into every thread, every character, every thought in A Wrinkle in Time so skillfully that the magnitude of it didn’t hit me until I sat down to write this review. The masterful use of language and character made the theme stand strong without having the characters repeat it like a monotonous refrain. 


There were moments in this book that stood out to me, moments that I remember thinking, “I want to be like her,”; when Meg admits her fear, but faces the danger courageously anyway was the most memorable. A Wrinkle in Time is one of those memorable childhood books that makes a last impression, deep in the soul. 


THE RATING:


Posted August 30, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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August 28, 2014

Review | Salt & Storm by Kendall Krulper

Title: Salt & Storm
Author: Kendall Kulper {website}
Publication Date: September 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source & Format: Netgalley; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she’s to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane–a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.



I will probably never be tired of books about witches, magic or small towns. Growing up a romantic in a small town in Texas has made these books my favorites. When all three are combined together as they are in Kulper’s Salt & Storm, I’m in heaven. 


Avery herself was a fascinating character. Her memories and heartfelt desire to be the next Roe witch of Prince Island created a memorable motivation within her character. Her every thought and movement was connected back to the dream of succeeding her grandmother in the role of the sea witch, a trait that could have easily been overdone. Instead, it reminded me of youthful innocence and determination to reach dreams. Her determination to escape her mother’s household and return to her grandmother’s little grey cottage on the sea built the basis for Salt & Storm‘s plot. 


I loved the character-driven plot: the relationship between Avery and her mother, the town’s relationship with the Roe witches, and Avery’s own determination made for a fantastic story. The only downfall? The romance didn’t do anything for me. 


Althought Tane’s story was heart-breaking in it’s own right, I never felt connected to him like I was to Avery. His entire story was filtered through Avery’s narration, a characteristic that typically doesn’t bother me, but I couldn’t hear him over Avery’s thoughts. When the two characters fell in love, I felt like I’d missed an entire section of the book. The romance them bloomed into something without life and verve; there was no passion to make it memorable.


The problem really lies with Avery’s first person narration. As a character, she’s fascinating. As a narrator, she overwhelms all of the other characters. Avery is so focused on her own dreams that she becomes an almost unreliable narrator; there are so few descriptions of the other characters in the book (beside her mother, but she is only defined by her scar and her black hair) that it was hard to imagine the story in my mind. Avery’s narration also told me as a reader what had happened, how I should be feeling, instead of showing me what happened, making me feel that way. I didn’t become truly invested in the novel until the 70% mark when Avery’s personal thoughts take a backseat to the action. 


THE RATING:

– Strong female character! Loved the depths.
– Magic, ocean, and youthful dreams. What more could you want?
– Narration overpowered the story to where the other characters were drowned out.
– Flat romance

Posted August 28, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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August 15, 2014

Review | Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Title: Burial Rites
Author: Hannah Kent {website}
Publication Date: September 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. 

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard. 

Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?



It’s been impossible to get this book out of my head.


I finished Burial Rites this morning, but ran out of time to write my review before my shift started. Normally I focus on work pretty quickly when I walk in the door, but Kent’s story kept wiggling its way back to the forefront of my thoughts. I imagined the landscape of Iceland, colored by the various characters’ perceptions, the strong themes of gossip, truth, betrayal and trust and wanted to read the novel all over again. It’s been a long time since I felt this way about a book


The element that spoke out to me was the language. Kent’s narration was fabulous. I loved the variation, switching between Agnes’ first person viewpoint to a third person limited with different characters. Typically I get a little confused when there isn’t a demarcation between the different narration, but the transitions flowed so well that I felt I was in the story itself. 


I loved how the descriptions and settings became part of the narration and dialogue so easily. It’s such a natural thing when done well and paints portraits of scenes in my mind. Kent’s language and descriptions made me feel like I was watching the story on a screen instead of reading words on a page. Once I fell into her world, I wanted to stay and find out what happened.  


Agnes herself was one of the most fascinating characters. I loved how her narration explained her ticks and motivations, even after other characters notice some of her stranger mannerisms. For me, Agnes was endearing because she was a girl who had fallen in love with the wrong man. It’s a story we can all sympathize with; Agnes’s fairy tale fell apart in front of her eyes. Her slow revelation of not only her side of the story but her character herself to the earnest young assistant reverend made me fall in love with her character along with the other characters in the novel.


To put it simply, there are a vast amount of minor characters in the novel, but each has a major effect on the plot itself. So many of them only put in small appearances in Burial Rites, but each’s personality, motivations, and thoughts made such an impact on me as a reader that it was nearly impossible to forget them. 


When I picked up Burial Rites, I didn’t realize Kent was giving her version of a true story. The vast amount of detail in the novel never felt like an infodump, but fascinating and engaging. I drank it all in, from the details of Anges’s life to the Icelandic countryside in the 1800s. Kent’s novel sparked a new fascination within me. 


THE RATING:


Posted August 15, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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July 28, 2014

Review | Big Boned by Meg Cabot

Title: Big Boned
Author: Meg Cabot {website}
Publication Date: January 2007
Publisher: William Morrow
Series: Heather Wells Mysteries {Book 3} 
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Life is reasonably rosy for plus-size ex-pop star turned Assistant Dormitory Director and sometime sleuth Heather Wells. Her freeloading ex-con dad is finally moving out. She still yearns for her hot landlord, Cooper Cartwright, but her relationship with “rebound beau,” vigorous vegan math professor Tad Tocco, is more than satisfactory. Best of all, nobody has died lately in “Death Dorm,” the aptly nicknamed student residence that Heather assistant-directs. Of course every silver lining ultimately has some black cloud attached. And when the latest murdered corpse to clutter up her jurisdiction turns out to be her exceedingly unlovable boss, Heather finds herself on the shortlist of prime suspects—along with the rabble-rousing boyfriend of her high-strung student assistant and an indecently handsome young campus minister who’s been accused of taking liberties with certain girls’ choir members.

With fame beckoning her back into show business (as the star of a new kids’ show!) it’s a really bad time to get wrapped up in another homicide. Plus Tad’s been working himself up to ask her a Big Question, which Heather’s not sure she has an answer for.



Being the assistant hall director in New York City can’t be an easy job. With all the drama that young adults bring with them to college (believe me, I know all about it), I can’t imagine trying to run a dorm smoothly. Being an ex-pop star and overseeing a hall nicknamed “Death Dorm” is asking for trouble. Maybe that’s why I’ve fallen in love with the Heather Wells Mysteries series. The storytelling itself is phenomenal – memorable and hilarious – but it’s the main character that keeps me coming back for more. 


Heather Wells is your typical girl…well, as typical as a ex-pop star can be. All she wants is to live the quiet life with her gorgeous landlord (and ex-boyfriend’s brother), write songs, and get her degree. Of course, nothing goes quite as planned for her, especially when she runs “Death Dorm.” Reading Heather’s narration is like sitting down and catching up with a good friend (one who has some crazy adventures). There’s something warm and familiar in these books, something that makes me want to return to them again and again. 


Heather herself goes through some drastic character development in Big Boned, but it doesn’t take a huge role in the story; only now that I’ve finished the fifth book (review on Saturday!), I notice how she’s changed and evolved from Size 12 is Not Fat. The biggest representation of her evolution is in her love life: she is head over heels in love with Cooper Cartwright, the private investigator and black sheep of her ex-boyfriend’s family, but instead  dates Tad Tocco, her “vigorous vegan” math professor (I laugh every time I see that). Tad’s a nice enough guy, but he doesn’t fit Heather’s personality. Her character development all hinges on this relationship with him and how she handles it


I loved the mystery plot of Big Boned. Following in its predecessors’ footsteps, this installment has the same kind of hilarity and chaos surrounding the mysterious death, but underneath it all, there is a well-crafted mystery at work. All of the elements of a good mystery are there, from the red herring to the mistaken identity. The lack of grisly violence leaves the focus on the case itself, motives and suspects. The detective element of the plot evolved well and merged with the side plots (Heather’s love life, the drama with the graduate student workers, and Heather’s family drama) to make a strong, cohesive story that kept me thinking about the book long after I put it down. 


THE RATING:

WHY:
– Strong, engaging storytelling
– Loved the narration
– Well written mystery

RECOMMENDED FOR:
Fans of Janet Evanovich, Meg Cabot and Lauren Willing, and those looking for a light, fun, chick lit read. 

Posted July 28, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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