The Edge of Falling: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Edge of Falling by Rebecca SerleCaggie should have everything she could want growing up as part of New York City society. She used to. She had a picture perfect family. She lived in a beautiful Manhattan apartment. She went to an elite private school. She had a handsome, smart, nerdy, perfect boyfriend. She had a quirky, beautiful best friend even if she did live all  the way downtown.

She had everything until she lost the most important thing.

Nothing seems to matter quite so much now that her younger sister is dead. Drowned.

Caggie blames herself–maybe for the right reasons. Maybe for the wrong ones. She can’t be sure when nothing makes sense anymore. Even Caggie’s attempt to escape at a classmate’s party goes horribly awry. Now everything thinks Caggie is some kind of hero.

She doesn’t know a lot, but Caggie is certain she isn’t a hero.

When she meets Astor, Caggie thinks he might be the perfect solution. Someone to help her forget. Someone who never heard about the drowning. But Astor has his own secrets; his own grief that he’s been carrying.And his own secrets.

Caggie was already buried under her own grief, her own regrets. Now, as she becomes closer to Astor, Caggie will have to decide if the combined weight of their loss will be too much for either of them to hold in The Edge of Falling (2014) by Rebecca Serle.

Caggie is a realistic, honest character. She is quick to point out her own shortcomings and accept her due in terms of blame. Although narrated by Caggie, the story eventually comes full circle as Serle illustrates that a tragedy never affects just one person.

Set in New York City’s upper class, The Edge of Falling is set against the privileged, shining backdrop of New York’s Upper West Side. What could have made the story flippant or decadent is instead tastefully handled with Caggie–a character who has never felt comfortable with her own family’s wealth.

Sharp, though sometimes predictable, The Edge of Falling is a quiet, meditative story about loss and what comes after.

Possible Pairings: Where She Went by Gayle Forman, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Hero Type by Barry Lyga, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Top Ten Tuesday: Blogging Confessions

Top Ten Tuesdays img by Miss Print

While you’re here, be sure to also sign up for the Summer Box Swap I’m co-hosting with Nicole the Book Bandit! Sign ups run through July 19!

And now here are some secrets from my blogger self:

  1. I save arcs: Instead of buying new copies of books I read and loved I’ll often keep arcs and even bring them to an author signing. I know it’s not the best practice but I fell/hope blogging about the book helps balance out the fact that I don’t (can’t) buy all the books I want.
  2. I don’t re-read: It has to be a really, really, really good book for me to re-read it. The only time I actively re-read a series was Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief books as I prepared to read Book Four.
  3. Different covers don’t bother me: I like when books are packaged well and look similar but if it’s repackaged mid-series that’s okay too. My Megan Whalen Turner books all have different covers. Some are even discarded library copies. The horror!
  4. I’m a terrible commenter: This is my greatest shame as a blogger. I rarely read/comment on other posts. I’ve been trying to get better about that but it’s a constant struggle. (That said I love being a part of conversations so I love comments here and always try to comment on posts when I do sit down and read some!)
  5. I worked in a bookstore–and I hated it: This isn’t such a big secret for regular readers. BUT during a low point when I was underemployed I spent some time working at an indie bookstore. And it was awful. I loved the books part and the people part but the retail part sucked so bad.
  6. I have a really low tolerance for Middle Grades: I want to like middle grade books but I very often don’t. My willing suspension of disbelief always stretches thin and I find myself getting hyper-critical of books geared toward middle graders. So it has to be really exceptional for me to get into/through a middle grade. I also as a consequence am not the most well-read in this area.
  7. I skim: I skim if I don’t like a book. I skim if I like it so much I’m desperate to know what happens next. I skim if I have doubts about the ending. I have no compunction about peeking at the ending. Sometimes I have ruined a book twist for myself in this way but sometimes I’ve saved myself a lot of grief too.
  8. I don’t care about series: I will start series books no problem but just because I read the first one, I have no compunction walking away from the series. If I don’t love it, I’m not spending more time on it.
  9. I read backwards: If I’m not enjoying a book or want to motor through it, I will read it backwards. What that means is after reading the first 50-100 pages I’ll go back and read the last page. Then the last chapter. Then the second last chapter. Until it all makes sense.
  10. I collect hoard books: I own way too many read books for someone who doesn’t re-read (I also have about 100 unread books but that’s a different story). But I collect signed books as mementos. I have several copies and multiple editions of books I love for various reasons including the fact that I’m quoted in some. It’s silly but I think of them as reference materials. And I like having them nearby. Sometimes when I remember that I own a book I really, really love it just cheers me up. Does that happen to you?

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

(Image made by me.)

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone: A Review

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat RosenfieldBecca is just getting ready to leave her small town behind for good when the dead girl is found. Suddenly Becca’s plan to go to college and never look back seems trivial at best. It seems like the peak of hubris to think Becca can get away when the dead girl could not.

Paralyzed by the shock of this sudden violence, Becca isn’t sure what to believe when her future–even the future in general–seems impossible to fathom in Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone (2012)by Kat Rosenfield.

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is Rosenfield’s first novel.

Becca’s first-person narrative is intercut with short chapters outlining the moments that lead to the unidentified dead girl’s–Amelia Anne’s–murder.

Rosenfield’s writing is lush and highly literary with vivid, often unsettling, descriptions of Becca’s surroundings and the scenes that lead to Amelia Anne’s murder.

The mystery aspect is handled well here. Although it was possible to guess the ending early on, the pieces of the puzzle still twisted in a direction that was difficult to anticipate. Although the plot meanders with Becca’s doubts and fears, the story is generally solid.

The chapters about Amelia are particularly well-done as they illustrate Amelia’s growth as she comes into her own before her life is cut tragically short. Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is a frank and unflinching story. Both Becca and Amelia do not shy away from talking about sex or other topics in their narratives. That said, it would have been nice to have a little more context when Amelia talks to her boyfriend about rougher behavior (Specifically she says to him: “Haven’t you ever thought about grabbing me from behind and throwing me against the wall? Just taking what you wanted?”). After the topic is initially raised there is not, unfortunately, any talk of consent and instead the chapter ends abruptly with no further discussion.

Unfortunately there isn’t much sense of character here. The only person readers really know is Amelia while Becca feels more like a convenient frame for a mystery that wouldn’t flesh out into a full novel. Becca rarely comes across as truly real and Amelia’s chapters stretch the limits of an omniscient narrator when combined with the first person structure of the rest of the novel. The secondary characters are painted with sharp vignettes that remain closer to caricature than actual characterization.

The narrative voice never quite works with many different tones competing in one slim book. In addition to Becca’s first-person musings there are also third-person chapters about Amelia. In addition, Becca’s narrative often goes off on tangents about the hive mind of small towns and the “we” mentality that often develops as a result. These  “we” passages feel lofty.

While this was an interesting story about cause and effect and the lingering impact of consequences it still feels more like a literary exercise than a mystery novel. Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is, however, undoubtedly well-written and demonstrates that Rosenfield is an author to watch.

Possible Pairings: Find Me by Romily Bernand, The Night She Disappeared by April Henry, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, Acceleration by Graham McNamee, Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, Missing Abby by Lee Weatherly, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, Cathy’s Book: If Found Call 650-266-8233 by Jordan Weisman and Sean Stewart, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams

Week in Review: July 6

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This week on the blog you can check out:

This weekend was bananas which is why this post is so late. My mom wanted to re-organize a lot of the apartment so we spent two days moving furniture and getting rid of stuff. It looks good but it was a pain. Mom also helped me cut my hair so it is VERY short. I’m waiting for it to settle down before pics.

I’m also debating if I want to start a “flashback” review feature on the blog. I like the idea but it’s feeling more and more like a lot of work so I’m not sure it’s worth it if no one will read it. What do you think? Will YOU read them?

The big news is Nicole and I are hosting a box swap. It’s going to be awesome and you should sign up!

 

Summer Box Swap: Sign Ups and Info

Nicole the Book Bandit decided she wanted to host another Box Swap this summer and I jumped at the chance to help her out.

Basically it’s like a secret santa exchange except, because it’s in July, we’re calling it a Summer Box Swap.

So here’s what you need to know:

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The swap is open to anyone with a US Mailing address. What that means is you need to have a US mailing address from which to send and receive your box. The box is meant to include fun non-book gifts (thus the long form to provide info) as well as (if you say you want one!) books.

Sign ups will run through 11:59pm EST on July 19, 2014.

Nicole and I will be making matches the following week. You should receive your match by July 27.

All Packages should be mailed by  August 9, 2014–that is a firm deadline. Details on how to provide tracking information/confirm mailing will be provided in your match email.

The spending limit for this box swap is $15.00

If you want to sign up, please fill out the form below. Give as much information as possible–your swap partner will be using the info to find cool stuff to send you! (Confidential information like your email and address will, of course, remain private and be treated with the utmost care).

If you have any question you can write to the swap email: GivingThanksBoxSwap AT yahoo DOT com

If you want to tweet about the swap, use our hashtag #SummerBoxSwap

You can also find us on twitter @SecretBoxSwap

Sign Up Form:

The Fault in Our Stars: A (Rapid Fire) Review

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012)

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThis book hardly needs talking about. Certainly no summary is needed. Despite the hype and the accolades, I’m still not sure I understand the appeal here. Like every other John Green book there are overly intellectual characters pondering the universe and trying to find meaning in it. Because these characters both have cancer there is also the inevitable pall of death hanging over the novel.

The story is interesting in its own way. There is a fun thread about loving, truly loving a book. There is romance. There are grand gestures. There are also unconvincingly intellectual teens who are shockingly self-aware (which, I feel, is likely not a side effect of dying no matter how literary a book it might make).

I’m just not sure why all of that added up to making this book a huge phenomenon. Maybe that’s my fault. Maybe it’s because the hospital scenes and the illness hit too close to home. Maybe it’s because I really hated that Isaac is blind for most of the novel but is never shown learning to use a cane or travel on his own.

This book sells itself and you’ve probably already read it. If you have, maybe you can explain the appeal to me.

The Glass Casket: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Glass Casket by McCormick TemplemanNag’s End is a town that is used to disappointment and hard times. Nag’s Enders also know to stay away from the woods after dark lest the dark creatures–the ones that stayed behind when the good fairies left–eat them up. The town is warded to keep evil out. And as long as people stay out of the woods, it seems safe enough.

But not everyone knows to stay out of the woods.

After years of peaceful living, five soldiers ride through town in a flurry of activity only to disappear. Days later they’re found dead in the woods.

The town elders say it must be wolves. Tom and Jude Parstle don’t believe them. Neither does Tom’s best friend Rowan Rose despite what her pragmatic father might think.

It’s been years since anything unnatural happened in Nag’s End or the surrounding forest. But between the strange deaths and the arrival of Fiona Eira–a preternaturally beautiful girl with her own secrets–it seems change is coming to Nag’s End. As Tom, Jude and Rowan delve deeper into the mystery surrounding these strange deaths none of them are sure who will survive in The Glass Casket (2014)by McCormick Templeman.

The Glass Casket is a strange blend of fantasy with a hint of folklore and a horror suspense story. Five brutally murdered bodies are found within the first few pages but then the story shifts abruptly to an entirely too contrived (not to mention instantaneous) romance only to shift again to a bit of a mystery.

Templeman admirably juggles all of these tropes and plot devices in chapters with titles referring back the Major Arcana cards from a Tarot deck. Despite all of these intriguing elements, The Glass Casket never feels cohesive.

Broken into four parts and further subdivided into chapters, the story is chopped up even more with the story alternating between third person narrations following Tom, Rowan, Jude and Fiona. While this offers an opportunity to see the story from all side the ultimate result is a disjointed, jumpy story. (Not to mention a story that is annoyingly dissimilar from the plot suggested by the book’s jacket copy.)

Unfortunately, Templeman’s strength in world-building only highlights how lacking her characters are in basic development. Tom not only falls in love literally at first sight but also into a grand love that will mark him as forever changed. Jude, meanwhile, behaves like a young boy demonstrating his affection for a girl by being rude and generally treating her badly. Finally Rowan, the heroine of the novel who barely features in the first seventy pages, is supposedly a clever, bookish scholar. Yet throughout the story she is painfully lacking in self-awareness and lashes out with childlike tantrums when upset.

In summary, The Glass Casket is largely beautifully written. Although it is lacking in strong characters, the backdrop of Nag’s End is vivid and extremely evocative. Even the plot, if you can get past the numerous shifts in perspective, is quite suspenseful and an ideal read for fans of horror stories or thrillers.

Possible Pairings: The War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, The Blue Girl by Charles De Lint, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katharine Howe, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, “The Stolen Child” by the Waterboys (hear it here)