Sweetness and quiet love during the Civil War

Edenland is a sweet, quiet (if it is possible to call it that given that it is set mostly in the South during the Civil War) tale of two runaways who find each other and fall in love.

It is not a grotesque love story, in that their relationship is not ALL the story is about. It is about two people who have their own sad, sorrowful pasts that find commonality in their alone-ness. There is not an abundance love or sex scenes; it is their feelings that manifest for each other that demonstrate their love, and their longing to be together.

Edenland

Beldsoe and Alice first meet in a swamp in North Carolina and help each other escape the situations they are running from. Throughout the book, they are split apart, reunited, and are split apart again as they make their way North, where Bledsoe wants to join Lincoln’s army to fight for emancipation. Hiding in caves and bushes, stealing food from unlocked homes, and nabbing clothes off of clotheslines is what keeps them going. During their flight, they vacillate between staying together (Alice wants to) and splitting up (Bledsoe wants to). They don’t fall in love on page one.

The sole plot is to bring these two together again. Will they still feel love for each other? Is the other even still alive? Will they make it North? Is everyone an enemy? The other interesting dynamic is that Alice, an orphan born in Ireland is treated like a slave, and is thus uneducated. Many others believe her to be a slave because of her poor manners and language. Bledsoe is the son of a slave owner and slave mother, and is treated like a pet growing up, being allowed to learn to read. For this, his is capable of recanting memorized pieces of books and encyclopedias he has read. As a runaway slave, this is a dangerous talent to have. The way the author swaps the education between these two characters is a refreshing change from typical books about slaves and slavery during the Civil War.

This isn’t a long story, but it is a sweet one. The author just gives enough detail about each of Alice’s and Bledsoe’s past that you want just a teeny bit more. The ending is abrupt, but rightly so….the book would not be the same if she continued on for another 100 pages wrapping things up in a pretty bow. I appreciated the ending and it left a curious smile on my face.

Favorite line(s):
“A warm breeze ruffled the hem of her green taffeta skirt and tickled her ankles. She absentmindedly twirled the silk tassel of a button on her blouse as the brush shush-shushed through her hair. She closer her eyes. no one had ever brushed her hair before. This must be how a dog feels getting petted, she thought. She felt herself falling into a blissful state just short of sleep.”

“…today the artist had given him a small amount of pocket money. ‘There you go. Buy yourself a—? What would you buy?’
Bledsoe felt the coins rattling in his pocket and it felt good. His very first own money.
‘A book,’ he replied without hesitation. ‘But I ain’t supposed to know how to read.'”

“The July sun had turned from red to white and it was mean.”

 

There isn’t a lot of information about Wallace King, but she has written a few novels before Edenland. I feel, however, that I learned a lot about who Wallace King is in the Author’s Notes at the end of Edenland. ❤

Who DOESN’T Want To Read About A 17 Year Old Vigilante??

Wow.

This book was fantastic, and reminds me a little of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

The story is of Elka, and how as a young girl of 7, she meets Trapper and is raised by him for 10 years. Then one day, she finds his wanted poster on the wall in town and the chase(s) is/are on.

Elka is a huntress, trained by Trapper. Uneducated in all other aspects, she is running through the forests (seemingly in British Columbia, Canada) trying to avoid the law, who suspects she knows something, and Trapper, both who are hot on her trail. She’s on her way to find the parents that abandoned her when she was young.

Add to all of this the dystopic nature of the times. Some ‘thing’ happened years before Elka was born…some sort of war with the Russians, it seems, and life has reverted back to 18th/19th century living in most parts. Most folks called it the Damn Stupid-the perfect name. No cars, no electricity, no printing press, but the occasional canned food or rifle/shotgun/pistol makes an appearance.  This dynamic between then and now is interesting, especially because Elka doesn’t know ‘before’. Elka’s world is chaotic, with massive thunderstorms and snow storms that are minor characters in their own right.

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As she makes the long journey to find her long lost parents, she encounters many hardships and mishaps along the way. Not raised around many humans has made these encounters awkward, scary, innocent, and even doused in betrayal. You want very much to wrap Elka in your arms and say “Don’t trust this person and here is why….”. She learns all the lessons she needs too and on she goes to the next stop, hardened and smarter for the next interaction.

This story was fast paced, despite taking about a year to come to a conclusion. The changes in Elka…the release of some stubbornness, the retained innocence, the dissolution of that hard shell she lived within for years, the self reflection- is both difficult and beautiful to watch. The choices she makes that result in her becoming a tough vigilante teenager are impossible to imagine, even as an adult. This book would be acceptable for any teenager to read- there is no sex, only the glancing blows of violence, nothing gratuitously descriptive. My imagination could fill in the details if it wanted to go there.

Interestingly enough, I read this on a trip to Vancouver, BC, and didn’t realize that BC was (probably) where this took place. Having seen the landscape there, and read this at the same time, Elka truly is a feminist, bad ass hero. She’s more of an adult than most of the people I know. If all women were as brave and stolid as her, the world we be a much different place.

My favorite lines:

“I don’t much like roads. Roads is some other man’s path that people follow no question. All my life I lived by rules of the forest and rules of myself. One a’ them rules is don’t go trusting another man’s path. No matter if that’s a real one trodden into dirt or all them twists and turns his life has taken. People do it, they do what their mommies and daddies did, they make them same mistakes, they have them same joys and hurts, they just repeating. Trees don’t grow exactly where their momma is; ain’t no room, ain’t enough light and water so they end up wilting and dying off.”

“Them words on that piece a’ nothing could send me back south on that boat or could set me right on my path north. All from paper. That rubbish that rips easier’n cotton, breaks down to mush in water, bleaches out its meaning after too long in the sun. That paper right there in Big Betty’s meaty fingers, and the people who could make sense of it, had total power over me.”

One final note: The book is written from Elka’s point of view, so it is written just as she would have spoken it. This made the novel even more beautiful. No one really comments on her lack of education, despite running into characters who are clearly more educated than her. No one really points out her appearance other than to mistake her for a boy at one point. As dystopic as the times are, this was refreshing. Here’s Elka, fighting for justice and her life, and not having to worry about also fighting the prejudice that comes along with being raised differently than others or being uneducated. AWESOME job, Beth Lewis!

Here are a few links:

This is Beth Lewis’s website. Keep up to date on her current projects!
Here is a great article about how Beth Lewis studied hunting and outdoorsy-ness to write the book. Which I find FASCINATING.
Here are some TV women that Beth Lewis finds to be bad ass. Which are also fascinating.

The Girls by Emma Cline- Why I don’t miss being a teenager….

This is a brooder for sure.

The Girls Emma Cline2

A quick read, yet a slow roller. Evie is a typically bored 14 year old on the brink of figuring out who she will be. The summer before she is sent to a private school, she spends hanging out with the one friend she has always had, Connie, and yet they do nothing. Connie is boring, one dimensional, catty- a typical 14 year old girl. The most excitement they have is figuring out if they can make Connie’s brother and friend fall in love with them, or maybe just make out a few times. Both of them have an desperate need for attention, to be noticed by anyone.

Evie’s boredom with her life and her friend is palpable. She wants to test herself- to test Connie’s brother, which is a failure. She tests her relationship with her mother and her new boyfriend. She tests her father. She sees Suzanne and this becomes her biggest test…and she manages to pass it…to a point.

Suzanne belongs to a cult of younger kids, mostly girls, who follow Russell, a musician that they treat as their idol. Evie seems to fall in love with Suzanne, and does anything Suzanne wants her to do. Since Suzanne has a thing for Russell, this means Evie does too- devastatingly- and she will do whatever Russell asks to appease Suzanne. Evie is easily manipulated by both Suzanne and Russell for fear of appearing weak or to become unnoticeable again. Her time with this cult makes her seem (become?) much wiser than her 14 years should allow. She learns a few lessons on how to use her femininity to get what she wants.

Written from Evie’s point of view, some chapters are written as her at 14 during her time with the cult, and some with her as an adult, coming to terms with how her choices at 14, her poor self esteem and strong desire for someone to SEE her, notice her, have affected her as an adult. The chapters with Evie as an adult are incredibly sad, seeking attention from an ex boyfriend’s son’s girlfriend and others, and yet being fearful of any interactions, particularly with strangers.

It is known for the book description that some sort of violence occurs when she is younger. Whether intentional or not, how Evie handles this after it has occurred is left very vague- I both appreciate this, and yet question if that was intentional. The world knows she was involved, but we never find out how that happens.

This book is FULL of similes, and after a while they did become a big over descriptive and unnecessary, but on the whole, this was a great book.

My Favorite Lines:
“Poor Sasha. Poor girls. The world fattens them on the promise of love. How badly they need it, and how little most of them will ever get.”

“They didn’t have very far to fall- I knew just being a girl in the world handicapped your ability to believe yourself. Feelings seemed completely unreliable, like faulty gibberish scraped from a Ouija board.”

A final note. I have read other reviews that denounce Emma’s portrayal of men in this book (mostly by men). That all are either weak, or sexual deviants and aggressors. Unfortunately, that is real life. No, not all men are horrible. But for this (fictional) story, it is why Evie struggles to be noticed…she has never had a true, good relationship with any boy or man. And there are MANY women in real life for whom this is true. Whether men want to acknowledge it or not, their interactions with women, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential, have impacts on how women interact with men in the future.

The Girl in the Coma-Put me in a coma

The Girl in the Coma1

This review contains spoilers.
**I received this book free of charge for a fair and honest review.** This is actually the very first book I have reviewed for a free copy.
Unfortunately, this was no good. When I review ARCs, I try very hard to read the entire book. For this, I broke my own rule. The copy I read was for the Kindle app (on my phone). This may be the reason for some of my complaints- the formatting seems terribly off. I’d be interested to see it in another format to see if it is better. LOTS of missing spaces, too large of spaces, author’s name in the middle of a random paragraph, punctuation all wrong. However, on top of that, there are some spelling errors (ee instead of we, comma instead of coma). C’mon, the book is about a girl in a coma- THAT word must be spelled right of any of them. 😦
**Update from publisher- The misspellings were intentional because the girl’s boyfriend misspelled it (uh, ok, not sure how the reader was to know that. See if you agree in the image below. You can also see some of the formatting issues in this clip also.) and when looked at on other formats than my Kindle phone app, apparently the formatting issues I had aren’t present.

The Girl in the Coma

As for the story, it is about Allison who is shot in the head by someone and is in a vegetative state in a long term care facility. While that sounds all sad and touching, I had no personal connection to her at all. The only people who visit her are her ex boyfriend, whom she degrades (mentally since she can’t speak) and her brother. A girl (not a friend) from high school also shows up, but only because she (somehow) knows Allison’s roommate. There is unfortunately nothing redeeming about Allison.
I got through one of Allison’s story lines…which was- who shot her? Somehow she manages to figure it out, despite not being able to move, see or feel anything. Initially, it is not clear if Allison can even see or hear, but then you realize she can hear, and also suddenly is able to see from one eye. They arrest her alleged attempted murderer in a one paragraph sum-it-all-up fashion.
The second story line for her was that there is someone killing off patients in this long term care facility every seventeen days. Or something. People die all the time and yet she’s somehow, without moving, feeling or seeing, figured out the pattern. Even though some die on day 12 or 4 or 6. Somehow, she also knows this killer is after her- but why? Who knows. Maybe to finish the job? Maybe because they are madly in love with her? Maybe for her necklace? This “someone wants me dead” story line I could not get through.
On top of all the things she is able to figure out, she dreams (time travels?) of her ancestors and the things these women went through during the American Revolution. There is no explanation at all as to why this may be, as she doesn’t know anything about these women prior to these dreams (she’s never been told stories about her ancestors). IS she time traveling? Is it some weird coma-y thing?
I only learned about two of these women, Rebecca and Lizzie, and then couldn’t go further. BUT, these bits, about these women and their relationship to some major players in the American Revolution, were actually very interesting and written MUCH differently (re: better) than the Allison chapters. Rebecca’s chapters were fascinating, and I was sad they ended (and am not really sure why they did other than her lover dies, which we only find out as a random aside). Lizzie’s chapters weren’t quite as good as Rebecca’s, but still miles better than Allison’s. If this book had been about Rebecca in its entirety, it would have been much more readable and enjoyable.
A few other notes: Rebecca’s last name is the same as the author’s wife’s last name. Some sites list this as children’s fiction- I assume this is different than YA? I’d call this more YA than children’s fiction, but that does not make the book better or more acceptable.
Overall this book is just all over the place. There is no reason to grow attached to Allison, so no reason to cling to your chair wondering what will happen to her. The writing in her chapters is awful, and hard to read. The stories of Rebecca and Lizzie are better and much more interesting, yet they are full of sudden endings with random “oh yeah, now their dating”s and “oh yeah, her beau died”s. There is no wrapping up of any story, it’s just all abrupt endings that feel like when your seat belt gets tight after hitting the brakes too hard- painful and you don’t want to feel it/do it again.

Can We Make This a Party of Two??

I picked up this book recently from a book galley site and this is my new favorite addiction (the book galley sites, not this particular book- wait, maybe??) In exchange for a fair review, they sent this to me for free. When I read they byline “From former MTV VJ Dave Holmes, the hilarious memoir of a perpetual outsider fumbling towards self-acceptance, with the music of the ’80s, ’90s, and today as his soundtrack”…how could I NOT request it?! Reading the byline itself, I can hear Casey Kasem in my head! Be still, nostalgic heart!

So it shows up at my house and I immediately begin reading. This is important, because there are well over 400 books in our house that would like to have my hands on them. This one felt NOW. Like, right now. Even the book jacket has a creamy (can paper be creamy?) feel to it.

Part of One2

The book jacket illustration fits the title perfectly. White. Stark. Lonely, with a solo, faceless dude at a party, chilling alone, listening to his Sony Walkman CD Player. Delish.

Throw in the fact that the Chapter Titles are all song titles, and I’m swooning. And the title selections are not contrived. Take for example, Chapter 17, Any Little Town. He didn’t just pick that title because the word ‘town’ was in it to explain his experience living in NYC during 9/11. The lyrics augment what he wrote in this particular chapter- and it happens in most of the other chapters as well.

I’ll be honest, for all the MTV I watched, I don’t remember Dave Holmes, which now makes me sad. And nostalgic. When will MTV go retro for the children of the 80’s and play all our old favorites?! Like A Prayer! Control! Thriller! A-ha! Tool! Warrant! Whitesnake! Let Dave be the veejay (again) and take us back to that time! His recollections of growing up in the Midwest are spot on to some of my own. His mother’s accent is priceless.

I abhor the coming-of-age trope- but it (unfortunately) fits this book. This is Dave’s story of realizing very young that he was different (I prefer unique) and having trouble finding another soul like his through high school, college and adult/career-hood. And that is what is fantastic about his story. The funny tales, the horrifying MTV bits, the Friends-like-life in NYC all direct him (and the reader) to that weird, hippie, hallucinogenic last chapter where the answer to life lies.

All along the way there is music. The Introduction, relating the bee girl from Blind Melon’s video to his own search to feel included, had me hooked. There are music lyrics adeptly sprinkled in, and if you aren’t a bottomless pit of useless music lyric knowledge (like me, like Dave), you probably won’t notice them. They are used not so much to drive home a point, as to be inside Dave’s head, where I’m sure, every minute of every day, music lyrics swim around until the moment when they are needed, and then out they come.  Just ask my husband…me and music lyrics spouted to mundane situations is a thing I do. He doesn’t get them, but Dave would. So can we have a party of two!?

If you grew up in front of the boob tube and with American Top 40 on the ghettoblaster every Sunday, and remember Small Wonder, TRL, Fact of Life, 98 Degrees,  Chad Allen (swoon! Chad Allen!),  The Indigo Girls, The Cosby Show, The Breakfast Club (and all other John Hughes movies) and Doug Savant, then you will love all the pop culture references Dave tosses up. Even better is his weaving of 80s and 90s pop culture with more current lingo,  pop culture and social media- like vocal fry (Dufffrunnnnt!), 80s on 8, GIFs on HipChat, Applebee’s Happy Hours, Temptation Island, and Rock Star: INXS (hello, I have TWO of the contestants’ songs on my iPod!).

To top it all off, Dave is clearly humble. Yes, there are occasional name drops, but not in a vulgar look-who-I-got-to-meet way, but in a how-the-hell-did-I-get-here way. The chapters about his time at MTV, the shows he worked on (thanks for finishing THAT chapter with a picture of Nick Lachey!) and the douchier celebs he met were like icing on a sweet, musical, trash TV cupcake.

A few favorite lines:
“I hunted high and low for my place in this world. I changed myself around every which way to make myself normal. I tried to be each of the five archetypes from The Breakfast Club, all four of the Facts of Life girls, every one of the emotions inside Herman’s Head. I tore it up, you guys.”

“(Affer it up t’Are Lard, Mom would whisper to us; you’re evidently also supposed to know what that means.)”

“Like Markie Post in a Lifetime Original Move, I kept my abuse to myself.”

“You won’t age into someone else’s prized demographic. (Actually, you will: Fox New’s. Best not to think about it.)”

“My blocked chi was going to have to get fixed. Twenty CCs of bullshit juice, stat.”

Gems. All gems. The best one is in the last chapter, but I’ll let you find it. 😉

Super fast read. Perfect for the beach, for avoiding work, or for that 3.5 hour flight to Indianapolis to forget why you are flying to Indiana. (No seriously, Dave, can we have a party of two!? We’d have so much fun listening to satellite radio, trivia-ing each other on all things music and trying to out karaoke each other! Email me! 😉 )