Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: Burning the Map (Audio)

Summary: The choices Casey Evers has made in her 26 years aren't exactly making her happy. In fact, her life is so on course - college, law school, boyfriend, job offer - that it's actually off. So, before she slides into 14-hour days at a Chicago law firm, she heads to Rome and Greece with her two best friends for one last hurrah. 

The thing is, her best friends haven't really been all that close to her since she started seeing John two years ago, she hasn't been all that close to John lately, and she's awfully partial to Mediterranean men... 

I rest my head against his shoulder. The scooter starts to fly again, and Rome whizzes by - a myriad of fountains, marble statues, larger-than-life doors with gigantic handles, streets that look like alleys... 

The rigidity that has settled in my bones and head over the past year seems to thaw a bit. Yet with the thaw comes an army of questions from some unused corner of my brain. What about John? Will you tell him about this little excursion, this man you are hugging? What happens when you get back, when you have to start work, when you can no longer escape the world? I lift my head and let the wind snarl my hair around my face, trying to forget these questions, the ones with rifles in hand that are waiting to fire holes in my flimsy curtain of contentment. 

Set against the backdrop of sparkling beaches and old-world villages, Burning the Map ignites the fire within us all, to shine in unexpected ways... -- Story Avenue, LLC

When I was recently pitched BURNING THE MAP by Laura Caldwell, I was a little surprised. I remember the book being available some time ago, and I couldn't figure out why I was being asked to read it now.  It ends up that this book was first published ten years ago to some critical acclaim, and the author decided to re-release it in a new form -- as an audio book. I figured it would be a light, fun read while I logged some miles on the treadmill.

BURNING THE MAP is exactly the type of book that I used to read... about ten years or so. It would probably have been labeled as chick lit when it was published by Red Dress Ink (my friend and I used to love that publisher!) because it tells the story of a young woman on the brink of adulthood. The novel follows Casey after she graduates from law school and takes the bar exam but before she begins work at a law firm. She is in a serious relationship with John (at the expense of the other relationships in her life); and, like many girls in their mid-twenties, realizes that her life is becoming much more routine and predictable.

In an effort to have some fun before she is forced to grow up, Casey takes a vacation to Rome and Greece with her two best friends -- despite feeling less close to them in recent months. Once Casey's in Rome and Greece, she discovers that she's not missing John much at all. In fact, she finds that Mediterranean men can be quite attractive. Between handling a variety of guys and trying to balance her relationship with her best friends, Casey has to figure out what she wants out of life and what will make her happy!

I enjoyed BURNING THE MAP but I don't know if I'd say I loved it. I think I'm probably quite a few years past the target audience, but I did find it an entertaining way to spend 9 1/2 hours on the treadmill. I thought the writing was smart and I loved all of the descriptions of the Mediterranean beaches, villages, and food; however, I just didn't really relate to Casey or feel much sympathy towards her.

If I'm being entirely honest, I thought Casey was a little immature for 26. Heck... when I was 26, I was married, working full-time and going to graduate school. I realize that I was probably in the minority with that lifestyle, and maybe I should have had more wild experiences; however, I found it difficult to feel sorry for someone who was cheating on her boyfriend and ignoring her friends. I realize Casey had a lot of pressure, so I tried to cut her a break; and I really did want her to figure out things before taking the wrong path in life, but she seemed so self-absorbed for much of the novel.

Based on this review, you probably think Casey was a horrible person. That is definitely not the case. Casey was a sweet girl, albeit a little confused, and she did feel guilty for hurting her loved ones. And in all actuality, her actions could have been a lot worse! (I should point out that her boyfriend and travel companions weren't exactly perfect either.) What I appreciated about her character is how much she had to learn about herself within just a few weeks and how she faced some very difficult decisions. Many women wouldn't have had the strength or courage to face what Casey did.

One of my favorite things about this novel was the setting. I loved that the novel took place in Rome and Greece, and I thought Ms. Caldwell did a fantastic job of bringing these areas to life for the reader. I was able to get swept up as the characters' visited various landmarks as well as the beaches; and it definitely made me long to visit these countries. Furthermore, I liked how the author explored the theme of travel and how it can change the way we see things in our lives.

The audio version of BURNING THE MAP was read by Piper Goodeve, and I thought she captured Casey perfectly. This is the first audio book that I've listened to by this narrator -- I think she usually reads romance novels -- and I had absolutely no issues with her performance. I enjoyed her sense of timing with the humor, and I found her portrayal of Casey to be very realistic. You can listen to an excerpt here.

BURNING THE MAP would make a fun book club discussion.. especially if you could include some food and wine from Rome and Greece! The author has a reading guide on her website to facilitate your discussion. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include self discovery, honestly, love, friendship, parent/child relationships, adultery, and travel.

At its heart, BURNING THE MAP was a coming-of-age story for a young woman making the jump to adulthood, and many women will relate to this story -- especially ones in their early twenties. Recommended for fans of chick lit and books that take place in exotic locales.

Thanks to Kaye Publicity for providing a review copy of this audio book.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I've never heard of Red Dress Ink so I missed this book the first time around too.

Age and maturity are funny things. Vance is 26 and one of our niece's is 27. She is married and has 3 kids. She is not nearly as mature as Vance is. Maybe Casey would remind me of her.