Book Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (5/5)

18 Oct

I somehow missed the hype of this book when it came out. I knew it got some good reviews but it was never on my radar. Man, do I regret that. This book blew me away. I’m so glad my book club picked it. I must have missed it due to a class in one book club because they were all shocked I was just getting to it. I’m so glad I’m in two!

Cover image via Goodreads

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Summary from Goodreads:

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

At first, I didn’t like this book. I was having flashbacks to The Maze Runner and the frustration I felt when the main character had no idea what was going on and he was getting no answers. But as soon as Jason figured out what was going on, I was in. I finished this book in three days and that’s no easy feat for me now with how busy my life is. I stayed in bed a lot on my days off, napping and reading this book. It blew me away. It was very original and yet it used something familiar enough that I could understand it. I wish I was still reading it. Fair warning, it’s hard to not have spoilers in this review so continue reading at your own risk.

I loved Jason. He was very realistic and yet he was so smart that it was unimaginable. I loved the relationship with him and Daniela. I thought he was really resourceful. Overall, it was really great. The ‘other Jasons’ were fun, too. I wish that had some more screen time.

Daniela was my favorite character. I loved her as a wife and mother and I loved the other versions of her we met. She was creative and fun and still very much the same person. I thought the way she acted at the end was believable and it showed how strong her relationship with Jason was.

While none of the things in this book have happened to me, I understand Jason’s’ dedication to his wife. I love my husband with an odd ferocity and I can understand why he was willing to go to such extreme circumstances to make sure she was safe. I’m not sure I understood the lottery he was willing to set up. I’ll never be in that circumstance so I guess I never have to.

Blake Crouch
Image via Twitter

I liked Amanda and Jason trying to navigate the box best. It was fun to see the strange worlds they ended up in and how the navigated them and got out. It was a fun adventure and it led well to the final adventures of the book. I understand why it was necessary, too, but the fun was the best part.

I didn’t like being kept in the dark for the first 100 pages. I was frustrated and might have put the book down. Crouch’s writing was quick and easy to read, which kept me going forward, but I hate not knowing something critical when the narrator also doesn’t know. It seems like the writer isn’t sure what he’s doing yet but in this case, Crouch had a very good idea!

Jason’s love for Daniela obviously drove the book. If he hadn’t been so driven and dedicated to getting back to Daniela and Charlie, he might have stayed in the other world. Success, riches, and intelligence didn’t mean anything if he didn’t have Daniela and Charlie to share it with. Even successful Jason wanted the happy family.

Writer’s Takeaway: Crouch’s short sentences kept me reading fast. The long chapters and short chapter interchanged kept me guessing. I loved the way he paced this novel, though I wish it had been a little faster earlier on. It was a really fun and quick read, something I haven’t enjoyed in a while.

Really run and enjoyable, Five out of Five Stars

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
“Dark Matter” by Blake Crouch | Ellie’s Reviews
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch | The Owl on the Bookshelf
#BookReview – Dark Matter by Blake Crouch #BuddyRead | Secret Library Book Blog
Dark Matter | Bookstooge’s Reviews on the Road
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch | For Winter Nights

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WWW Wednesday, 17-October-2018

17 Oct

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: It might be optimistic, but I think I can return to The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl soon! I’ve only got one more book standing in my way. The future is at hand!
Unsurprisingly, I’m still working through A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. I’m getting close now, only a normal-length audiobook to go!
I’m moving slowly through Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson but I think this will be faster than some of my other ebooks. It’s a lot shorter than I thought it would be, honestly. I double checked four times that I didn’t have the abridged version!
I began listening to A Night to Remember by Walker Lord on my phone. I love everything Titanic and I’m honestly surprised I didn’t have this on my radar earlier than I did. It’s a short one and I expect I’ll fly through it.
I began Not Me by Michael Lavigne on Friday. Not too far into it yet but I’ve had such a good run of print books that I’m optimistic that this one will go fast. too!

Recently finished: I finished two again! The first was The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz which was a phone audio. I was happy to wrap it up on my way home from school. It was a very satisfying ending for me and set up well for another one in the series! I gave it Four out of Five Stars and posted my review yesterday, check it out.
The second was Dark Matter by Blake Crouch which I flew through. I was skeptical for about the first 100 pages and then finished it in less than 24 hours. I’m yawning as I type this because I sacrificed a lot of sleep for this book. So worth it. A full Five out of Five Stars and my review will be up tomorrow.

I also posted my review of Artemis by Andy Weir last Friday. It wasn’t The Martian, but it was good. I’ll expect good things from Weir in the future. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: It seems too optimistic to think about finishing yet another book this week. If I do, it will probably be an eaudiobook and next will probably be That Night by Chevy Stevens. This book haunted me for a while before I found it on clearance when a Barnes and Nobel closed and decided to buy it. We’ll see how it goes.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz (4/5)

16 Oct

I put this book off for a very long time. I knew that the Salander books were being continued by another writer, but I was nervous that I’d be disappointed by them and didn’t want to read them at first. But my mom read it and reassured me it was fine. I got a copy from a library sale and let it languish on my desk. Eventually, I caved and here we are.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

Summary from Goodreads:

She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution.

Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it…

I’m genuinely OK with Lagercrantz taking over this series. I was afraid it would feel too different and maybe for some hard-core fans, it is. As a fan who read the trilogy over five years ago and has seen the Sweedish films and wants to see the new English one, this was just fine. It had the same techy vocabulary and lists of street names that I remembered. I like how Lagercrantz created a new villain for Lisbeth to defeat in this one and I hope he’ll stretch it out for a few more novels.

I liked that Blomkvist is getting older. In the first three, it seemed like Larsson was writing an idealized version of himself in Blomkvist and his ability to be sexy, smart, and perpetually young stuck out (much like Robert Langdon in Dan Brown’s novels). But Lagercrantz doesn’t have the same dedication to the character and he’s much more believable. Lisbeth is as crazy and out there as ever and hasn’t changed much, which I appreciated.

August was my favorite character. I loved how this boy with a minimal ability to communicate found a way to express himself and help the people he loved. He needed to feel protected and didn’t feel that with his mother but when he could be around his father and Lisbeth, he was safe enough to let show what he could do. I adored seeing him as a strong boy and not someone who needed to be perpetually pitied.

There wasn’t much in this book I related to well. It was very distant from my life and I think that’s why I could enjoy it. It was an escapist piece for me. Really fun to read and nothing like my life. Even the ways the characters reacted weren’t things I could relate to because the situations they were in were so far from me.

David Lagercrantz
Image via Facebook

I liked Lisbeth and August’s escape from the summer home best. It was the best of Lisbeth’s quick thinking and fighting ability. Her being able to perform at that level with a child just showed how clever she was. I liked getting the story in bits from different perspectives as well.

I thought the build-up in this one was a bit slow. I can’t exactly put my finger on why, but it just seemed to take a long time to grab my attention. It seems silly to say that with how action-packed the early chapters were, but I wasn’t invested until Lisbeth was more involved.

My audiobook was narrated by Simon Vance. He’s the same man who narrated the first three in this series and I believe I listened to two of them. He doesn’t use much change in vocal tone but it’s enough that you know who’s talking in a phone conversation and he changes his accent enough that you recognized the Russian characters in this one. As is my mark with male narrators, I didn’t feel his female voices were ‘weak’ or ‘too girly.’

There’s not too much of a moral theme in this one. Stop the bad guys from killing people for money. It’s not a very noteworthy theme. Underneath it, though, Lisbeth always has more to say. She can’t stand those who don’t protect women and children. She does everything she can to help August even when his mother has given up. In today’s world, standing up for women is seeming harder and harder. We can’t give up, the same as Lisbeth.

Writer’s Takeaway: I have great respect for Lagercrantz for what he was able to accomplish in writing this book. He was able to take another man’s characters and style and still write an original book. It’s like the ultimate version of FanFiction I can think of. Mimicking another author’s style is a fun writing exercise, but keeping it up for an entire plot is really impressive.

Overall, really enjoyable and a fun read. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Review: ‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’ by David Lagercrantz | The Life of a Thinker
Book Review: “The girl in the spider’s web” –  Millennium part 4 | Katevents
The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz | aclairerium
Guest Post: David Lagercrantz’s Girl in the Spider’s Web “was a soy milk latte to my preferred triple espresso” | The Tattooed Girl

Book Club Reflection: The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert

15 Oct

I was overly optimistic that my recent book club discussion of The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert would reveal some major themes that I’d been oblivious to and help me understand the book.  It seems that everyone walked away from the book as confused as I was. On the bad side, there’s no new insight. On the good side, I’m not completely thick.

Most of us agreed that the slow build of the book at the beginning was enjoyable. We could all feel something creepy building. But the second half of the book seemed to be a complete 180 from the first half and didn’t seem to connect at all. It was disorienting as a reader.

We debated the setting and how much it was set in reality. One reader noticed that the sun rose in the west, so she assumed that this world wasn’t our own. The quality of the writing wasn’t what bothered us. We could easily picture this world. We got the feeling that the work was set in England after a war. We debated if it was a reference to the Children being sent from London during WWII but decided this was wrong. Though David showing up with a tag did draw up images of this time. There was a great sense of the setting and how it was slightly off, but without a hard answer, we didn’t like the lack of resolution.

We wondered if the ‘story’ of the children in the book meant they came from our world. Them all having been gassed would account for their knowledge of the evils of the world. It made sense for Engel to be the woman shot at the Children’s Home. One reader informed us Engel is German for Angel.

We noticed the two points of view, Morgan and Dr. Crane. Dr. Crane was usually a calm and cool character throughout but toward the end, he lost his temper and Morgan had to switch roles and calm him down. We noticed that the doctor seemed to act less and less like an adult as the book went on. At the same time, David matured more and more, as if they were working in opposite directions through life. The subtitle for Chapter 13 mentions Dr. Crane making an inquiry into something, but only David appears in the chapter. We might have figured something out!

Morgan’s mother was a bossy gardener. She cared a lot for her plants. She used her power to oversee the garden. Some saw this as foreshadowing for the importance of gardening later in the novel. Rebecca implied at one point that their mother had a potting shed back at the house. If the children were planted or grown there, we still don’t understand.

Many saw this as a novel about class struggle. The children had to subvert the power struggle. Engel’s name makes more sense when one recalls that Marx founded his idea of communism with Friedrich Engels. Rebecca represented capitalism and the accumulation of power on the back of the working-class children. Before David leaves, he says that they’ve made a difference ‘for now’ but implies it won’t last and that things won’t change.

There were a lot of things in the novel we didn’t understand, and which were left unresolved. The anatomical woman in the attic drew many different theories. Morgan’s grandfather’s collection of things was something else we felt lacked closure. Overall, the book felt a bit sloppy.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed for a more satisfying novel next month. We’ll meet in November but will skip December to enjoy the holidays. Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir (4/5)

11 Oct

I’d put this one off for ages because I felt it couldn’t live up to Weir’s first novel, The Martian. I’ll say right away, it didn’t. But that doesn’t mean this was a bad one. I was finally pushed to read it because a book club at my library had picked it for their third quarter meeting. I’m friends with the librarian in charge of the group and she asked if I’d read it and I had to admit I hadn’t but wanted to. That put me between a rock and a hard place! I took a lazy Saturday and powered through this one. It made for good reading between my naps.

Cover image via Goodreads

Artemis by Andy Weir.

Other books by Weir reviewed on this blog:

The Martian (and movie review)

Summary from Goodreads:

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

The plot in this was great. It was gripping and it moved well and there was no down time between events. That was a major reason I read it so quickly and let it eat up an entire Saturday. My issue with this book was Jazz. She didn’t feel genuine to me. I understand that she grew up in a frontier town that’s so different from the Midwestern life I know that it could be hard to relate to her, but she was so different that she didn’t seem like a woman to me. Maybe because of the male writer, it wasn’t going to feel right, but still. I also felt like I was being babied a bit by Weir. He’d say something about lunar gravity or laws and follow it up with a sentence that actually started with, “Remember,…” in case I’d forgotten we were on the moon. That bugged me a bit. Ok, a lot.

In addition to Jazz, all of the characters seemed a bit off to me. Her father was the most realistic and it’s because he reminded me of an overbearing father whose daughter will never live up to his expectations. That happens on Earth, too! The other people were off and I think that could be explained away as people who fit in on Earth aren’t going to emigrate to the moon. It seems like a weak excuse, though. I wish some of them had been a bit more believable, I really do. I’ll just focus on the plot and continue to enjoy this one.

Because other characters were so minor, Jazz was still my favorite character. She was so smart and so resourceful that I had to love her at least a bit. She often had her heart in the right place, but she didn’t always do the right or logical thing. She was like Gru from Despicable Me.

I couldn’t relate to these characters and that’s part of why I struggled to enjoy the book. It was like reading a western but set in space. With a lot of science. And a female lead. It just wasn’t what I was expecting and I guess I was a little let down by it. It was a fun heist-like plot, but it didn’t move me in any way.

Image via The Daily Californian

I liked seeing Jazz’s plans play out. She was smart and always had to think things through because of her surroundings. Welding is basic but welding in a vacuum with an EVA suit on is not. She was very resourceful and smart and I liked seeing her ridiculous schemes come to life. I wonder how many of them would have really worked. I guess we’re still a few decades from finding out.

The beginning of the book frustrated me. It was a long lead-in to be introduced to the characters. The rest of the book moved so fast that this really stood out to me. A lot of things were explained slowly and it developed Jazz’s voice, but it didn’t develop her character or the plot much for me. I think it could have been cut.

Justice is different in Artemis. There’s not a lot of consequence for right and wrong and Jazz takes advantage of this. Is this better? Is living somewhere where destroying property is OK if you defeat a mob? Or almost killing everyone is OK as long as they don’t actually die? There’s a lot of grey area in law in the first place and Artemis thrives on that. Jazz takes advantage of it. Is that really OK?

Writer’s Takeaway: Weir clearly does a lot of research. He has a section in the back of the book explaining how you can travel to space for about $70,000 in his economy and why that can rationalize the existence of a colony on the moon. When you read his books, it’s clear he knows what he’s talking about. He doesn’t let the science dominate the book, though. It’s still a work of fiction and this book was much more about Jazz and Artemis than it was at all about how to create a sustainable moon colony.

I enjoyed this book but it had its flaws. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Artemis by Andy Weir | 10thandnoble
{Audio Book} Review: Artemis by Andy Weir || Questionable jokes and a better second half | Flying Paperbacks
“Artemis” by Andy Weir | NardiViews
Review- Artemis by Andy Weir (2017) | Total Inability to Connect
Artemis by Andy Weir (Book Review) @andyweirauthor @DelReyBooks #Artemis #CityOnTheMoon | Always Trust in Books

WWW Wednesday, 10-October-2018

10 Oct

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I see The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl sitting on my bedside table every night. I want to finish it soon. Let’s see if I can.
I’m still in love with A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. The separate plots and characters are coming together now and it’s been so cool to see everything work together toward what I’m assuming will be an amazing ending. I don’t want this to end!
I made great progress with The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz this week and should finish it up really soon! I’m enjoying this as much as the original trilogy and I hope Lagercrantz keeps it going.
Since I finished Artemis, I was able to start Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. I hope I can sprint through this one as quickly! I’m on a hot reading streak lately.
I working on Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson as my ebook now. This will fulfill yet another time period for my When Are You Reading? Challenge which means I’m in the middle of three books to finish that off! Let’s just hope I can polish them off before the end of the year.

Recently finished: I wrapped up Bel Canto by Ann Patchett during lunch last week. The ending had me a little puddle of emotions that was not ready to jump into four straight interviews. I think the movie will make me cry. This will be a good one. My review went up yesterday so please go check that out!
I spent most of Saturday in bed resting and reading Artemis by Andy Weir. It was a quick read, much like The Martian and I enjoyed it. My review will be up tomorrow. It felt good to get through a book so fast!

I posted my review of The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert on Monday and them promptly went to my book club on the book that evening. Look for the book club reflection coming soon. It was an interesting book to put it lightly. To be honest, I really disliked it!

Reading Next: Another book club read to block me from reading Poe! I’ll be starting Not Me by Michael Lavigne next. I’m not sure how we came to select this one as there’s not much about it on our library site and it looks like it won’t be one I can audiobook. Darn.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (4/5)

9 Oct

I enjoyed the first Patchett book I read so much that it took little convincing to get me to read this one. I had it downloaded to my phone as a ‘back up’ book if I needed one while I was traveling Europe. Of course, I read more than I thought I would and needed to dive into this one. Sadly, the hold expired before I could finish it and after waiting a month in limbo, I devoured the ending.

Cover image via Goodreads

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Other books by Patchett reviewed on this blog:
Commonwealth (and Book Club Reflection)

Summary from Goodreads:

In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. Alas, in the opening sequence, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera. And thus, from the beginning, things go awry.

Among the hostages are Russian, Italian, and French diplomatic types. Swiss Red Cross negotiator oachim Messner comes and goes, wrangling over terms and demands. Days stretch into weeks, the weeks into months. Joined by no common language except music, the 58 international hostages and their captors forge unexpected bonds. Time stands still, priorities rearrange themselves. Ultimately, of course, something has to give.

I didn’t know what to expect from this book. I knew nothing about it going in and the title didn’t mesh with a hostage situation to me, but I rolled with it. The other Patchett novel I read had been a slow burn of emotional turmoil because Patchett is an amazing writer who makes you care about her characters more than you ever thought possible. As the story went on, I felt it dragged a little bit in the middle, but Patchett kept me interested in the happenings of a single house for five months. That’s pretty awesome.

I liked the variety of reactions we get from the hostages and terrorists. Not all of the terrorists are angry all the time and not all of the hostages are mad about the situation they’re in. Most of the young terrorists joined the group because they didn’t know another way. Many of the hostages have realized they’re not going to be killed and that the terrorists don’t want to kill them and they seem quite comfortable in their situation. I liked the variety Patchett gave us.

Gen was easily my favorite. He was involved in everything because of his translation skills and he had a great ability to only insert himself where he was really needed. I thought his relationship with Carmen was adorable and I liked the continued working relationship between him and Hosokawa. The obligation he felt to his employer even in the terrible situation was understandable and kind of adorable. I think I could have been friends with Gen.

Carmen’s desire for nothing to change was relatable. I think many people find solace in a moment or a situation and hope that nothing changes and they can live in that moment forever. Their moment lasted almost five months, but it was fleeting and the idealized time had to come to pass.

Ann Patchett
Image via Star Tribune

I liked the beginning of Roxane singing. It was such a change to the book and it sparked a lot of change in the house and the characters. It was the beginning of the hostages being treated as humans. It was a time of beauty and cooperation and it showed the power of music in the book. That’s not something many books can achieve.

The ending was my least favorite part so skip ahead if you don’t want it ruined. I felt it was really abrupt though I guess the ending to the situation had to be abrupt. There was no other way out of it. I thought it was appropriate but the epilogue rubbed me the wrong way and I felt disappointed and let down by what had happened. I wanted there to be something more, a wrap up of some kind with the other characters. Though I guess there wasn’t much left to say, was there?

You hear about Stockholm Syndrome and it’s hard to understand how something like that could happen. I can see it now. This book makes it so clear. When you’re world is shrunk to the size of a hostage group, it’s easy to attach to one of the few people there. Sometimes it’s another hostage but many times, it’s a terrorist. Many of the characters though, “When we get out of this, I want to…” without considering the way they’d get out and who would get out. They wanted the world to continue the way they were living it then, expanding the borders of their world but not who was in it. I can’t say I’ve ever read another book about this and it was really fascinating.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book had a slow burn, which is hard to write. Every time you thought things were getting repetitive or slow, Patchett threw something else in to kick it up a notch and make it exciting again. She paced this book well. For such a small setting and such a limited number of characters, I cared a lot about what happened.

I enjoyed this book, though I could have gone for a little more action or a slightly shorter book. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett | The California Journal of Women Writers
bel canto by ann patchett | Ardent Reader
Ann Patchett: Bel Canto | A year of reading women
Ann Patchett – Bel Canto | Fyrefly’s Book Blog

Book Review: The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert (2/5)

8 Oct

My book club always tries to pick a spooky read for October to fit into the Halloween theme. I don’t read much horror so this is always a treat for me and a time to explore something new. Unfortunately, the pick this year didn’t do it for me. Maybe I’ll change my mind when my book club meets tonight, but it’s not looking good. I wanted to write this before my mind is swayed as my opinion often changes when we have a big discussion.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert

Summary from Goodreads:

In a sprawling estate, willfully secluded, lives Morgan Fletcher, the disfigured heir to a fortune of mysterious origins. Morgan spends his days in quiet study, avoiding his reflection in mirrors and the lake at the end of his garden. One day, two children, Moira and David, appear. Morgan takes them in, giving them free reign of the mansion he shares with his housekeeper Engel. Then more children begin to show up.

Dr. Crane, the town physician and Morgan’s lone tether to the outside world, is as taken with the children as Morgan, and begins to spend more time in Morgan’s library. But the children behave strangely. They show a prescient understanding of Morgan’s past, and their bizarre discoveries in the mansion attics grow increasingly disturbing. Every day the children seem to disappear into the hidden rooms of the estate, and perhaps, into the hidden corners of Morgan’s mind.

I was on board with this book for the first half. Then it started getting derailed too much for me. I wasn’t OK with the factory or the wax figures and I was for sure not on board with the greenhouse. I’m guessing there’s some kind of symbolism in this book that went way over my head. The questions in the back didn’t allude to it and I’m sure I’m going to be disappointed when I figure out what it was. I think something this wacky should have been more grounded in reality or had a more obvious reference to the subject that was being described through the plot. Right now, I think it has something to do with an old orphanage and how we view our worth based on physical appearances. That’s all I got. I’m frankly sick of trying to figure this one out.

Morgan was the only credible character in the book. Engel was never given enough of a personality to feel like a real character. Dr. Crane was always kept at arms’ distance and also didn’t feel very real. He seemed like he was an apparition like the children. It was too odd that he could so easily leave his home and his job and live in the mansion. The children were really creepy to me and I didn’t think they were really children for a minute.

Along with being the only credible character, Morgan was also my favorite character. He was vulnerable when no one else seemed to be. He cared about how he appeared to others and was always afraid he would scare people or that his speech was too hard to understand. That vulnerability was relatable to me. The rest of his story was a bit too fantastical for me to appreciate, but that part of it I could buy into.

Charles Lambert
Image via Simon and Schuster

I liked the first half of the book, up until they leave in the car. From there on, I just wanted it to end. The children were perfectly creepy in the home when they were playing and doing minorly creepy things. They were still believable. The factory and the greenhouse were too much for me.

I stopped caring about what was going on and just wanted the book to end at that point. I kept looking for symbolism or a deeper meaning but I was so shocked by what was happening that I couldn’t. It made no logical sense to me and it was too hard to ‘like’ something that was so far removed from reality. After all the chaos that surrounded the greenhouse, I was hoping for more closure than we got. Overall, the ending was a huge disappointment.

It’s hard to identify a theme for this book. There wasn’t anything I could really latch onto. The closest I can get is Morgan becoming more comfortable with his appearance. Though I’m not sure what the lesson was from that. To me, this book was a bit of a mess and I didn’t get much out of it.

Writer’s Takeaway: Subtelty can be great. It can make for a wonderful reveal at the end of a book that knocks the socks off of your readers. But this was too subtle. Whatever happened, it was too subtle for me to understand. I was left confused and looking at reviews of this book, I’m not the only one. As a writer, you shouldn’t have to explain to people what’s happening. They should be able to understand it from the book without commentary. I doubt any of Lambert’s beta readers understood the first time around. And by the second, they already knew what he was going for.

This book started off with huge potential but fell really flat for me. We’ll see what the book club thinks. Two out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Club Reflection Part 2: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

4 Oct

I read History of Wolves earlier this year for another book club discussion. I wasn’t able to refresh myself on the plot before my second book club met to discuss it last week. I was surprised at how much I remembered, though! We didn’t have a huge group, and some speculated it was a reflection on our feelings of the book. Maddie’s life was very different from ours and that made it a bit hard to relate to her and get into the book.

The teacher’s role in the book was a bit ambiguous to us. I mentioned my feeling that the book had two plots that didn’t mesh together well, and some seemed to agree. His storyline was more about redemption. He felt guilty for what he’d done in California and that he’d never suffered for it. He wanted to suffer, in a way. In the end, it’s Maddie that gives him closure. He doesn’t really have a good closure himself.

We talked a lot about the relationship between Maddie and Patra. It was a very motherly relationship even though the girls weren’t too apart in age. Patra wanted a woman to interact with in her adulthood. Her youth was shortened when she had Paul and she wanted to feel young again. Maddie had such an unconventional mother and childhood that we felt she was looking for someone she could have fun with and be a girl around. Patra’s life and home were very isolated from outside influence. It was implied that Paul was unruly and needed to be ‘controlled’ in some way. Living there provided that. When we thought through the timeline, Leo and Patra decided to move to that home after they knew Paul was diabetic. They knew he’d be far from care in that house.

Leo is fanatical and controlling. Even Maddie, who’s not afraid of anything else in this book, is afraid of Leo. She doesn’t want to give Patra the Tylenol for Paul because she’s afraid of how Leo will react. That guilt stayed with Maddie for the rest of her life. It ran into the guilt she felt for not defending her teacher against Lilly’s accusations though I think she was confused about how it would have played out because of what was found in his home.

Sorry for a short post, it was a small group and no one seemed strongly impassioned about this one. I did enjoy it as I said in my review, but I think it should have just focused on the story with Patra, Leo, and Paul.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 3-October-2018

3 Oct

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

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Currently reading: I’ve continued to make progress on Bel Canto by Ann Patchett but I’d really like to wrap it up soon. I’ve been reading this one since I was in Europe in July and I’d love to put it to rest and move on to another book.
I’m still waiting on The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl and finishing up some book club picks in the meantime. I’ll get back to it, but it might not be until November or so.
I finished the first half of A Column of Fire by Ken Follett and am still deeply in love. I want to finish this one, but I want it to drag at the same time.
With my husband working a lot, I’m home alone and doing chores a lot of the time so I’ve been able to make great progress with The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz. I think Lagercrantz has been a good pick to follow Larsson so far. We’ll see if I keep feeling that way, but so far I’m a fan.
I started Artemis by Andy Weir and I’m trying to rush through. I want to get this one finished and go to the discussion but I need to read another book club pick for a group I’m already committed to. I have too many book club problems.

Recently finished: I finished The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert over the weekend. I’m not sure how I felt about this one. Let’s just say I’m glad I have a book club meeting surrounding this book because I’m not really sure what happened in the last third of it and I was so upset by the sudden ending that I don’t want to Google it to find out. I think I’ll skip this author in the future, though. It was not my thing at all.

Reading Next: I have another book club obligation that I need to get to and that’s Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. I think it will be a great Halloween read so I hope I can get to it soon. The meeting isn’t until the end of the month so I’m hopeful I can start it soon, it looks good!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!