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The Edge Of Never - review

Oh goodness, where to begin? 

I think first, I'll admit to feeling like I have been duped. "Had" by a love-bombing campaign perhaps? Who knows... Let's just say when I bought The Edge of Never based on some random reviews, I was not expecting what I actually got. I was expecting an emotional journey. Something "into the wild"-ish. To cry, perhaps. No, not perhaps, I was definitely expecting to cry. The reviews promised much crying to be had! I wasn't expecting... this...

The Edge of Never is about a girl, Camryn, who meets a boy, Andrew, while running away from her problems on bus through America. Andrew has stuff of his own to deal with, but they find a connection and agree to a road trip together while they figure stuff out.

I should have seen the signs...

My first clue should have been that this book was on a 99p promotion. Why was such a well-loved book supposedly just peaking in it's popularity (if reviews are to be believed) being put on promotion? Hmmm.

My second clue should have been the ominous warning tweet I received from Anna at A Case For Books when announcing my recent reading acquisition. Hmmm again.

The next clues should have been the relentless (and I mean relentless) name dropping littering the first chapters of this book. It was almost as if it was trying to distract from something, hmmm...?

And then, the true horrible nature of The Edge Of Never revealed itself.

At around half way, I entered the gateway of 50 Shades of Grey, Remastered. I was also slapped with the most horrific use of "rape" as verb that I have ever encountered. Not to mention the abundance of gender stereotyping that is being furtively, and rightly, fought-against in the name of feminism. Oh. My. God. And not in a good way... This book just became utterly offensive at the midway point.

So let's get to it, shall we?

The good(ish):

I genuinely thought The Edge of Never started out fine. Camryn falls out with her best friend and, still struggling with the previous death of her ex, boards a bus to nowhere just to escape. On the bus, she meets Andrew - a charming, tattooed guy with a taste for classic rock who is traveling to see his dying father for the last time. They flirt, they while away the hours together, and they realise they have a connection. So far, so chick-lit. I wasn't exactly enthralled but it was ok for the genre, and at least it wasn't dreaded insta-love. The characters seemed to have a bit of substance with their back stories.

The bad

The name-dropping was ridiculous. I said it was relentless, but it was over the top to the point of hilarity. These guys dont listen to music or wear clothes. They wear Brandon Boyd on their "large chest", they sing to The Civil Wars - more specifically Barton Hollow and Poison and Wine - and they look like Kellan Lutz. Lordy help you if you have no idea who/what these things are because the author actually uses the songs, without giving you the lyrics, to convey meaning.

Things start to get really bad as soon as the bus journey comes to an end, and the book slowly disintegrates into foulness from there. Camryn wants to continue her life avoidance, and so Andrew agrees that after he's seen his father they'll head out on a road trip together - with a catch: Camryn has to do whatever he says. *twitch*

Camryn agrees and embarks upon the road getting all these "experiences". One being changing a tyre. Coz, y'know, that's the optimum level of impossible for a poor widdle pwetty girl *TWITCH* the entire time, Andrew is checking out her ass *TWITCH*

Of course, conversation in the car and endless motel rooms eventually turns to sex. They want each other by now, but their "shadowed pasts" are in the way, so they just talk about it. Andrew tells Camryn if he has sex with her he must "own her" *TWITCH* and Camryn (wait for it...) likes it really rough. She seriously says "forced" - but it's ok coz like, totally not "real rape" - *TWIIITCH* for f***'s sake what the hell is going on right now with this book?!!!!

To add MAJOR insult to already open-wound-type injury, the author proceeds to use the word "rape" as a valid descriptive device in relation to - of all things - goosebumps. Well thank you for taking a harrowing, awful, shattering thing that SHOUDLN'T EVEN EXIST, and using it akin to a passing comment.  "Ohh I've come over all cold" would. have. sufficed.

Yes, I should have stopped reading right there and then, but I was near the end...

I continued and was met with the poor pwetty helpless girl getting hit on by some guys in a bar and having to be Saved By Barfight By Possessive Boyfriend coz she's "too sexy" in a boob tube. *ARGH!*

Next up, poor pwetty helpless girl cant handle her drinks so Big Strong Man must carry her home and help her puke.

Then...

Oh, no... I need to stop. You get the point. Just do me a favour: listen to the advice, unlike I did, and DO NOT read this book. 0/10.

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Books on TV!

It seems TV programming officials have gone on a bit of a book frenzy, lately! As book lovers, we've always known the best stories lie between a dedication and a blurb, but what's surprising here is that these TV adaptations are actually doing the books justice! I'm yet to be unimpressed by one, and that is despite the inevitable book-to-screen changes that will appear.

Here's my pick of current and upcoming shows you need to get on your radar - if they're not already, of course. PS. You might need a tv programmer as some of these clash - boo hiss!

Current:

Hannibal - Sky Living, Tuesdays 10pm

The White Queen - BBC, Sundays 9pm

Game Of Thrones - Sky Atlantic

The Returned - Channel 4, Sundays 9pm


Upcoming!

Dracula - Sky Living, July

The Thirteenth Tale - BBC, Coming soon

The Strain - FX, Coming soon (US)

Under The Dome - CBS, Coming Soon (US)

Death Comes To Pemberley - BBC, Coming soon  


Recently aired - probably available as catch-up viewing: 

Labyrinth - Channel 4

World Without End - Channel 4



If you have been watching any more adaptations, or know of any new pilots coming up, let us know in the comments!
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Readers from fiction

Gretchen!
Here's a little post to celebrate famous fictional book lovers!

I love it when I read books about books (The Shadow Of The Wind) or books about writing (The Shining) - they feel like a little treat for those of us who invest so much of our free time into words. If I'm being honest, I feel a little smug if I pick up on a book-culture reference or find a writing trait of my own mirrored in a character!

Although many book lovers created in fiction are subject to a lot of stereotyping, I kind of like the tropes - but I am also so happy to see more and more characters breaking the mould, breaking out of silent libraries and making books fun!


Here's my pick of my favourite "book people" from cartoons, films, TV and, of course, books! Enjoy!

  1. Gretchen - Recess - (Pictured above) Gretchen is probably my first ever encounter with a book lover, via Saturday morning kid's TV. She was clever, she was a little bit "sensible" - but she had a cunning side. I liked her!

  2. Giles - Buffy The Vampire Slayer - I LOVE Buffy, and even though watching Giles squirm around in his library at Buffy's aloofness in the first 3 seasons was rather painful (I'm British too, extra pain!) Giles really showed that books wield power, danger and, of course, the ability to stop any apocalypse ;)

  3. Hermione Granger - Harry Potter - A book heroine for the 2000's! Resourceful, witty... sometimes a little despairing(!) Hermione made reading cool for anyone who wasn't old enough to remember Buffy. (I'll choose to ignore that Rowling decided to head down the American Teen Movie line with Hermione and it was horrible. Spells to straighten teeth and smooth hair, and a pretty dress and sports-star date to make Ron see what he was missing and depart from her book-loving character? C'mon... The series was so much better than that cheap ploy.)

  4. David Martin - The Angel's Game -  The struggling writer's epitome. Now stop me if you've heard this one before... Hermit. Lonely. Drunk. Driven mad by his need to write. Locks himself up in a room. No-one quite knows wtf happened next... but despite all that cliche, it's flippin' excellent.

  5. Mort Rainey - The Secret Window - Hermit. Lonely. Driven mad by his-... oh, wait ;) Stephen King does the writers for writers genre so well!

  6. Mandella - 10 Things I Hate About You -The girl made Shakespeare her life. Gotta have respect for that!

  7. Belle - Beauty and the Beast - sing it with me now: "There must be more than this provincial liiiife!!!!" She made the most out of her incarceration by reading. She made her incarcerator love reading too. And then he gave a her a library. 'Nuff said.

  8. Lisa Simpson - The Simpsons (duh!) - When Lisa invented Equalia I wanted to jump right in there too - and not only for the Tunicorns! What book lover doesn't fantasize about their own fictional creations (and sometimes forget where they really are while doing it?!)

  9. Hannibal - Hannibal(!) - Bringing the creep factor to book obsession. One of my favourite literary characters, who just happens to be very literary! You wont catch him reading Bridget Jones' Diary though...

  10. Margo, Edith and Agnes - Despicable Me - Last but by no means least! These girls love a bedtime story, and they made the bad-guy love a bedtime read too. All together now: "n'awwww!"


Got any more? Add them in the comments!





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The Age Of Miracles - review

The Age of Miracles is a Young Adult sci-fi novel (not the space-y kind) by Karen Thompson Walker, and has recently appeared on the Richard and Judy Book Club list.

Now, usually I'm wary of books on that list. There are some true gems to be found there (Room, The Shadow of the Wind), but there are also some very dreary attempts at social commentary (No and Me) and so to see a title that has been on my wish list for months suddenly show up there, it had me thinking it had a very weighted chance of being either oh-my-gawd-awful or simply amazing. To me, that list has no in between.

And so on a 7 hour round trip to Leeds, I started AND finished The Age Of Miracles.

I think that sentence could be the review in itself. To complete an entire book in one journey is a resounding recommendation. I can tell you that The Age of Miracles is possibly my favourite book of the year so far.

It won't be a classic. It won't be heralded as the upholding example of modern literature. The characters wont be names you'll hear in years to come... this book is not "special".... but that is not a sleight upon it. This book is the most uniquely written, explored and realised novel for young adults I have read in a very long time.

It is the modern day, and the Earth's rotation is slowing down. Days and nights are growing longer, crops are struggling to survive, the atmosphere is bowing out to prolonged sunlight, the magnetic field is failing and birds are falling out of the sky. Humans, however, are learning to adapt.

Julia, the narrator of the book, is eleven years old and documents the changing world for the reader along with her personal experiences during what she calls "the slowing". Among the calamities of the changing landscape she is also dealing with growing up, her changing body and middle school. She is finding that her friendships are breaking down, her parents are growing apart and that, maybe, she might like a boy.


I could list the positives of this book all day, and I have so much gushing in my head I'm going to have to subtitle the rest of this review to keep it on track ;)

Why I loved The Age Of Miracles SO much:

The honesty:

Julia is eleven. This was a bit of dodgy ground for me, as I find it hard to relate to characters at such a young age as an adult reader. I find myself picking holes in their actions and questioning whether at eleven they are mature enough for their reasonings. That, however, is in OTHER books. Thompson wrote the most believable eleven year old I have ever read, and that's despite there being a romantic sideline(!)

At eleven, do we fall in love? No, we dont... to be honest, we probably don't even like boys as friends that much yet, but it's the age at which we realise the two sexes probably need to work things out in order for the next stage to happen..."The Crush".

The relationship between Seth and Julia was perfect. They went on adventures, not dates. They struggled to interact in front of people in case it looked weird. They dabbled in a kisses but never even thought of anything more. How refreshing! 

The ease of suspended reality:

To imagine a different world is a big ask. That Thompson showed me how it was in her book without pages of descriptive paragraphs is something of an amazement to me. A true master of "show don't tell". Julia explains how the world is changing through anecdotes and through witnessing others panic. It's wonderful.

The sci-fi:

Ok, so this sounds silly considering I knew it was scifi when I picked it up... but really, this book's sci-fi elements were so well done. I felt like the book was really well researched. I kept checking the maths of the expanding light hours and they all rang pretty true to the books own theory ;) (I'm far too suspicious! haha!) I also liked the proposal of what the human effects of the slowing would be - gravity sickness, frontal lobe deterioration, radiation poisoning, light fatigue... ok, maybe "liked" is the wrong word there!

However, sci-fi fans be warned - this book isn't an all-out "sci-fi" book. It's YA based in a science fiction situation. Don't expect too much!

The underlying message:

The piece de resistance of The Age Of Miracles was the underlying message running through it that catered so well to an older audience. It's hard to explain, as it was only ever inferred but it went something like this:

Are we influenced by the big things in life, or are they just a catalyst for predetermined paths?

There was a lot of cause-and-effect theme-ing throughout the book. The most obvious of which is "if the Earth had kept on spinning, would Julia's parent's marriage have broken down?" but this is also closely followed by "If the Earth had kept on spinning would they have ever righted their relationship?" - similarly we could ask "if the Earth had kept on spinning, would Julia still be friends with Hanna, as she wouldn't have moved away and met someone else?" but we are then told Hanna had abandoned a best friend before, when the Earth was in perfect motion. If anyone else has read this book, I would love to hear your own thoughts on the underlying message of causality in this book... as I don't think I'm explaining it very well!

Was there ANY bad?

My only complaint is that there was never any reason given for the Earth's slowing. But then again... I dont think there needed to be when taking into account "we were here" was all Seth and Julia could think of writing in the cement to mark their existence in the world. They just "were" and so was the the slowing. Shit happens ;)

So overall:

The Age of Miracles is a nicely original concept that doesn't assume its young readers are unable to process big ideas, while also providing deeper, less explicitly detailed food for thought for older readers in it's themes. I loved this book and will be recommending it to everyone I meet! 10/10!
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Cycletta - training update!

With 3(ish) weeks to go until the "Big Cycletta Day" I encouraged my boyfriend to join me on a cycle from Bristol to Bath, and back again! 

He was reluctant, even though he won't admit it now, because I am not exactly the picture of "fitness". I'm not very slim, I'm not an "endorphin junkie" at the gym, I need ALL the encouragement just to go, to be honest! However, I have slowly been building up my cycling distance over the past few weeks from a tentative 10km to this weekend's massive 52km!

We set out, glistening with sun cream, into a glorious summer's day; breezy, sunny, not too hot - it was perfect. We are fortunate enough to live very close to the start of the Bristol-Bath cycle path, so we negotiated little to no traffic along the way. Cycle heaven :)

A steam strain at a drink stop!

We made one or two sneaky ice-cream/drink stops along our journey and had an amazing re-fuel lunch at Graze in Bath before heading back in the opposite direction for home again.

There was one slight hiccup when my chain fell off and proceeded to wedge itself between my gear-cog and the bike frame (thank goodness my boyfriend was with me because as it got more and more stuck I did not have the strength to wrench it out!) but... I made it in one piece! (woohoo!)  

All in all our cycling adventure lasted for 5 hours, stops included. Stops removed, I think I might currently be looking at a 4 hour completion for the 60km route, with a few weeks left to work on endurance and speed.

I am over the moon happy about it, and although my thighs are going to need a bit of recuperation time, I think I will cycle up to that Cycletta start line with a confidence I never thought I would be able to start with, and that feels great.

The next cycling themed post will probably be the Cycletta itself unless I sign up for the Big Bristol Bike Ride(!) So I'll probably see you at the finish line - EEEK!

Don't forget you can help me support Parkinson's UK by sponsoring me at my Just Giving page.


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Good books do good food and friends make

If you think about what your most well-read, most re-visited and most "used" books are, you probably wouldn't even venture your mind to your kitchen...

But how often do you stare at the contents of your cupboards and turn to the good old cook book for help? A great cook book can stay with you a lifetime, and many in my collection have been passed down from mother to daughter over decades. Yes, I have rather young Delia Smith telling me how to boil, poach and scramble the perfect egg (from the days I could eat eggs - long gone!) I also have the archaic pounds and ounces cook books with iron rotary hand whisks adorning the cover (thanks goodness for the Smartphone when it comes to conversions!)

In the name of books, and good ones at that, I want to share with you my favourite cookbooks from my kitchen. Ok, so you may not loose yourself to a new book-boyfriend (if that's your thing) but you might fall head over heels in love with a crazily light sponge... or a crocodile (keep reading, it will make sense!)

I would love it, if you have a favourite cook book too, if you could share it and your favourite recipe in the comments. Cook books are the most social of the written words. Let's share, bake, saute and stir - and have a good natter over some cake!


Bero

One of the passed-down books of my childhood. This book is currently at my mum's house but I still call her to ask her to scan and email me over the sponge base recipe and the drop-scones quantities - not to mention the delicious cheese straws recipe! Everything you may ever want to make for the perfect tea party is in this book. Biscuits, cakes, pastries... Mmmm... And everything has simple, unfussy instructions and ingredients. Vintage baking at it's best!






River Cottage Veg

This may actually be my most-loved modern cook book. Since having my gall-bladder removed I have had to change the way I eat to make my diet easier on my body. This book has been my life line! I have become mostly veggie in the process of finding out what does and doesn't work for me, and this cook book makes meals exciting, healthy and most important of all - delicious! I couldn't be without it! (the mushroom "stoup" is amazing in winter)





Asian Vegan Kitchen

First of all, I may be mostly veggie, but no, I'm not vegan. However... eggs are the devil to me now! I get so ill if I eat them, and that makes my love of Eastern food quite challenging. This wonderful cook book has flown in and made everything brilliant again though! No egg fried rice here, but you'll find flavoursome spice/seasoning options to make scrummy, authentic alternatives. Egg noodles are banished and there are no soups topped with egg white... hurrah! I recommend the spicy cauliflower curry.





Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes 

The recipe book no kid should ever be without! My brother and I were entertained in the kitchen for hours by this book when we were young - trying to make the scariest "snozzcumber" crocodiles we could! I may not cook from it as often these days, but it's great for a bit of non-serious kitchen experimentation, and has so many great memories attached to it.






GoodFood 101 Chocolate Treats

I couldn't give you all the healthy options without an ultimate indulgence! This book has nothing but chocolatey recipes - yum! Tortes, muffins, ice creams, sponges, "bombes", fondues, cupcakes.... Trust me, you'll never run out ;)







So there you have it! My list of my favourite cook books. Leave yours in the comments below!
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