Book Review: Night Soldiers by Alan Furst (3/5)

28 Mar

This book has been on my TBR forever. I thought I was going to have to buy a copy off of Amazon because my library didn’t have it, but I was able to do an inter-library loan and snagged a copy. With the limited number of renewals for an ILL, I had to rush a bit to finish it over the weekend but I was up for the challenge! I powered through the last 3/4 of the book.

Cover image via Goodreads

Night Soldiers by Alan Furst

Summary from Goodreads:

Bulgaria, 1934. A young man is murdered by the local fascists. His brother, Khristo Stoianev, is recruited into the NKVD, the Soviet secret intelligence service, and sent to Spain to serve in its civil war. Warned that he is about to become a victim of Stalin’s purges, Khristo flees to Paris. Night Soldiers masterfully re-creates the European world of 1934–45: the struggle between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia for Eastern Europe, the last desperate gaiety of the beau monde in 1937 Paris, and guerrilla operations with the French underground in 1944.

This book started out rough. I was really struggling to get into it. I didn’t connect or sympathize with the main character until well over 100 pages in so I didn’t want to read it. Once I started to be engaged in his story, the book read really fast. I was glad to reach the end, which was moderately satisfying, but I can’t forget the slow start. The author writes beautiful work, he just needs to jump into the plot a bit faster.

The characters seemed a little unbelievable, but I think they have to in a spy novel about Russia. Khristo was able to do things and know things that most men couldn’t and wouldn’t. His friends were the same way and while they were fun to read about, it’s crazy to think that all of this could happen anywhere in the world.

Khristo was a great character. He was dynamic and he also seemed human because of his vices and emotions. He wasn’t perfect and when he let up, people got hurt. When he hid in France, it tormented him that people were fighting and he wasn’t a part of it. When he let himself fall in love, it’s used against him. I liked that he had flaws and I liked that he suffered for them.

I could relate most to Faye. Besides her being an American living in a foreign country, I related to they way she thought about things and felt about things. She was genuinely scared at what happened, but she put up a brave face, which is how I tend to react. She was sad to be leaving France, even though living there had been pure misery for her. I get nostalgic a lot as well. I related to her desire to help make things better, too. She genuinely cared and I appreciated that.

I liked the story of Bob Eidenbaugh best. I liked that he was genuinely suited to fill the role of Lucien and I thought the way he was snatched up to be a spy seemed really genuine. His story was fast paced and really picked up the story for me. I liked how Khristo tied in as well. I wanted to know a bit more about Bob but the story of their escape from the trap had my heart racing a little more than was safe right before bed. Maybe it’s best that it ended there.

The training at Arbat Street really bored me. I thought this part dragged and I wasn’t sure what I was learning about Khristo while I read it. I wanted some action and this build-up was too much. I would have cut a lot of it out.

 

Khristo had to suffer but it’s not clear what he’s suffering for. Besides being Bulgarian, he doesn’t seem to have any flaws or history that people hold against him. For some reason, his nationality is always brought up, like it’s a bad place to be from, yet when he returns, it seems like one of the most peaceful places he’s lived. Again, for some reason going to America is the end of his suffering. I’m not sure how that works, either, to be honest. I wish Khristo’s motivations had been better explained. He got wrapped up in something and there was no way out for him, but he kept pushing forward and it’s unclear why.

Writer’s Takeaway: The pacing in this novel slowed it down a lot. I think it’s important to start with something big and while the death of his brother was a big moment for Khristo, it didn’t start the action. The action didn’t start until he had already served in Spain. Until then, he was following orders blindly. I wish a large section had been cut and we got to Khristo running sooner.

A fun novel that started out slow. Three out of Five stars.

This book fulfills the 1940-1959 time period for the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

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:
Pan-European Lives: Night Soldiers by Alan Furst | Maphead’s Book Blog
Review: Alan Furst – Night Soldiers | Crimepieces

Movie Review: Slash

27 Mar

I know, another movie review! Yes, I’m sorry to have to resort to this. I think my reading slump is at an end, but I’m still not having much luck of finishing off books. I hope to not do this again for a while. When I was writing the review for ChickLit, I saw related movies and this one caught my eye. It had a lot of awards on it and after watching the preview, I realized it had Michael Ian Black (loved his memoir) so I decided I had to watch it. Plus, it talked about fanfic writing, which is how I got into writing in the first place.

Image via Imp Awards

Slash

Summary from IMDb

Freshman Neil’s Vanguard stories are all he cares about…until he meets the older Julia, who pushes him to put his own fan fic online. When the website’s moderator takes a special interest in Neil’s work, it opens up a whole new universe.

I found this movie highly relatable. Not so much the slash fanfiction (gay pornographic writing about a pop culture reference), but the nerd culture and growing up a fangirl (fanboy for Neil). Julia was easy to relate to because of her nerd obsession. I was a huge Lord of the Rings fan in middle school and many of you now know I’m a hardcore Harry Potter fan now. Honestly, I had a discussion about going to a con with my husband after we watched this movie. Nerd culture doesn’t get a lot of coverage in movies and I guess it takes a small movie like this one to flesh it out well. I thought it was really well done.

I loved Neil and thought he was spot on for someone going through the self-discovery he was. Julia was a little harder to believe. At sixteen, I found it hard to believe she had the sexual history with a guy out of high school that she had. With how much she wrote, she obviously cared some about her education and that’s demonstrated with her narrative writing class. Yet she’s skipping almost constantly and her friends have jobs during school hours (did this not make come up as an issue any other time?). She seemed 17 or 18, but sixteen seemed a stretch.

Neil was my favorite character. He was so shy but also very curious. He didn’t know what to think about himself or those around him and I felt he reacted in a very realistic way. I hope a bunch of nerdy fanboys saw this movie and thought, “Wow, it’s OK to feel the way I do about my interests and there are others who like the things I do!” Yes, there are. They might write weird slash fic about it, but they like it, too. Now, there are more productive things Neil could have done with his fandom, but at least he could find people to bond with.

I would say my fic writing was about on par with Julia’s. I wrote a lot in middle school and early high school, experimenting with plotting without having to develop characters. Like her, I could take elements of the plot I thought were underutilized or skipped and go into detail, making up some elements as I went and genuinely having fun. I found her desire for acceptance in writing relatable and her desire to be read. How do y’all think I got here today? 🙂

The relationship between Neil and Julia was wonderfully built. We see them find a camaraderie and become friends, see them build a tension, and see how that unfolds (I don’t want to give too much away!). The end of the movie leaves you feeling hopeful for them despite the conflict they go through because we see them go through conflict before. For such a movie, I thought the relationship had a lot of depth.

I didn’t like how Neil’s age became such a point of contention in the movie. It made him feel very limited. Yes, he’s 15 which means he’s a minor. If he was 17, would anything have been different? Making him 15 only served to have a girl older than him still be underage. The number of characters who mention his age is a bit astounding.

Everyone can find someone who’s just as obsessed with something as they are. That’s a wonderful thing about the internet. It brings together people who would never connect otherwise. Sometimes, like Dennis, they say things they would never voice without anonymity, which can be positive and negative. But being able to find these fellow fans can be a huge bonding activity for people. Look at the explosion of cons and cosplay in the past few years. The internet is wholly responsible.

Writer’s Takeaway: No one should put a limit on what you write. For Neil, it was slash fanfiction. For E.L. James, it’s erotica. For me, it’s 1920s YA fiction. When we try to label something as ‘wrong’ or ‘countercultural,’ that’s not going to stop it from existing. Just because I don’t read something doesn’t mean no one else can or will. We need to embrace that almost anything we can think of has been written and someone either enjoyed writing it or enjoyed reading it. I have to remember this about Jane Austen sometimes.

I really enjoyed this movie and any other nerd who thinks it sounds fun should watch it. Adult content is talked about, but the movie is not graphic in nature. 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!

Things My Textbook Does a Fiction Book Should Never Do

23 Mar

I’ve been talking a lot about my recent reading slump. I think a lot of it is because I’m reading so much for school that reading for fun seems weird. I’m reading at least one 50+ page chapter per week on top of what I read for fun. And my textbook is awful. I read the first chapter and thought it was a little weak, but the second and third chapters were worse. One of my classmates even asked me if I thought the textbook was terrible, which I said “YES” to a bit too loud for how quiet everyone was before class. Be warned, if you have to read Purchasing and Supply Chain Management 6th edition, you’re in for a treat. Here are some things the book does that a fiction writer would never get past an editor.

Repeating something multiple times and reacting like it’s new information. If I read the definition of a preferred supplier one more time, I swear this thing is going across the room. I think this term has been defined in 7 of the 9 chapters I’ve read so far. In Chapter 7, its defined twice. This is the equivalent of Hagrid telling Harry he’s a wizard in the fourth book, and Harry freaking out again. Not cool.

Repeating large passages, slightly reworded. I read chapters 7 and 9 pretty close to each other, and both have 2-3 pages devoted to sustainable supply chains. No language referring to, “As discussed in chapter 7…” Nope, none of that. Same wording, same vocab words, another three pages. Imagine if John Green had two scenes of Hazel describing her lung cancer. Same information, no recognition that we already knew this, just coming at us again. Like we forgot. Honestly.

Citing wrong page numbers or nonexistent figures. I wish I was kidding on this. I wrote in the right page number for one of them because the page it was referencing was in the previous chapter. This kind of inconsistency is an early catch for a fiction writer. Did Frodo have brown hair or blonde hair? Tolkien got it right and referenced the same color each time. Technology should make this easier.

Non-parallel formatting. The decision between main headers, section headers, and subheaders seems to have been decided by a coin flip. A paragraph introducing the next section will have a main header. So will each part of that section. Then in the middle of a bunch of subsections, we’ll jump to a section header and back like it was no big deal. Imagine an epic fantasy that was broken down into books and chapters at will with no logical reason for when it was changed. So confusing!

 Not defining terms. There are bolded vocab terms that are not defined. And there’s no glossary! I read the paragraph the word appears in and no clues! Vague context, but that’s not much to go off of. I remember reading The Maze Runner and being annoyed at all the slag. I’d be more annoyed if it was never defined!

Not highlighting key terms. Some rather important-seeming terms are not bolded but are defined. Honestly, it’s like the authors are trying to sneak something in on me. Like the clue in Dark Places that I totally caught onto, but with knowledge. The authors are trying to sneak knowledge in and pretend it’s no big deal.

Too much foreshadowing to content in future chapters. Kind of like my second point up there, the book will have a short paragraph about something that’s not-really-but-kinda-related to what it’s talking about. And then say we’ll read more about it in four chapters. Oh, but the term is bolded and is a vocab word for this chapter. With no definition. Like when you were reading Perks of Being a Wallflower and wanted to know about Charlie’s aunt and you knew it was important, but you had to wait till the right time to find out why it was so important. But instead of being heartbreaking and having Emma Watson and Ezra Miller in it, it’s about what conflict minerals Intel avoids purchasing. Not the same.

I hope to have actual content next week. I hope this is OK for now. Love you all for reading. 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, 22-March-2017

22 Mar

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’m tempted to take Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs off of this list because I’m barely moving with it. I was only moderately enjoying it while reading it and I don’t feel any pressure to get back to it. Plus, hubs and I usually only listen to these on long car rides and there are none of those coming up soon.
I was really hoping to make progress with The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler during Spring Break but no luck! I read for school during lunch instead of reading at home, which felt like a treat, but meant I was slow on making progress here.
I got through another big chunk of Night Soldiers by Alan Furst this weekend. I’m still not sure I’ll finish it, but it will be close! I’m trying to keep my TV ban, but I did allow myself an hour on Saturday. It’s too hard to resist getting some quality knitting time in, haha.
I was hoping to be further in Once In a Great City by David Maraniss but I forgot headphones for my long workout on Saturday! I was so mad. So there’s 90 of listening time I won’t get back. I’m really enjoying the book and the focus on a city I know so well.

Recently finished: Noting! I’m so sad about this one. I’m really hoping to make progress this week, honestly! I’m in the middle of a few long books now and I swear I’m making steady progress, haha. Maybe next week?

Reading Next: I keep staring longingly at my bookshelf when I walk past, wondering what I will read next. I have it boiled down to two, Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano or You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg. The first looks like a quick read and there are beautiful images in it. The second seems like something I should read before triathlon season gets into full swing. What do you guys think?


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!

Last Lines- Can You Figure It Out?

21 Mar

Alright. Still struggling here with my reading slump to give ya’ll some content. Here’s my next attempt. I’ve listed the last lines to ten different novels below and want to see if you can guess them WITHOUT GOOGLE. If you want to look at your own shelves, fine, but please don’t use the internet to cheat. I’ll respond to comments to let you know if you were right. My only criteria for selecting these is that I own them and that if it’s a series, it will be the final book in that series.

  1. He likes the thought of ships moving over the water, toward another world just out of sight.
  2. There are much worse games to play. (Kourtni knew it was The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
  3. And I finally began like this: When I stepped into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home… (Deanna knew it was The Outsiders)
  4. It was not until they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was. (Faith knew it was The Picture of Dorian Gray)
  5. He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance. (Faith knew it was Frankenstein)
  6. All was well. (Kourtni knew it was Harry Potter: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
  7. Being tired isn’t the same as being rich, but most times it’s close enough.
  8. Isn’t this a great country altogether? ‘Tis.
  9. For now, he starts to read.
  10. She opened the door wide and let him into her life again. (NOTE: Not technically the last in the series)

I know some of these will be much harder than others, but I have faith in you all! I’ll post the right answers after they’re guessed with a link back to the blog of the first person to get it right. If I think you’ve cheated, I’ll delete your comment so please be truthful!

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!

Movie Review: ChickLit

20 Mar

In my desperate struggle to find content for this blog while going through a reading slump, I turned to movies. Yes, I know, I’ve done this before. But I want to go a different way with it this time. I remember recently reading an article about writers’ block and how it’s become such a well-known phenomenon that it’s part of several movies (The Shining, Secret Window, Stranger than Fiction). So I got thinking about other books involving writing and I started perusing Hoopla and found this title, ChickLit. It was flagged as a comedy which on a Saturday night when you’ve been reading your purchasing textbook all day sounds wonderful. It was the perfect little movie that I needed.

Movie Poster via CineMaterial

ChickLit

Summary from IMDb

ChickLit is a comedy drama about four guys trying to save their local pub from closing down. They group write a chick lit, or more specifically a ‘mummy porn’ novel in the style of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and it gets snapped up. The only snag is that the publisher insists that the young woman ‘author’ does press and publicity. The guys have to keep their involvement a secret and so engage an out of work actress to ‘role play’ the part of the author. This leads to her becoming the star in the film of the book, the tables are turned on the guys and she is in control – leaving them with the awful prospect of having to secretly churn out sex novels for the foreseeable future.

This movie did make me laugh, which I really enjoyed. Some of the acting was less than superb but the story was fun and I enjoyed that. It started with classic good intentions that were quickly blown out of proportions. I think this movie was probably a bit more relevant three years before it came out, but it still had relatable themes. There’s always a fad, even in literature, and if you can capitalize on it, you can make a fortune. It might not last, so you have to take advantage of it when you can. I think it could easily have been paranormal romance, but the erotica bubble was equally popular.

The four writers were a good mix to me. They seemed to be a close group of friends and their desire to save the bar was believable. I thought it was a bit of a stretch that they were able to write such a good novel, but I guess that’s also a comment on the quality of writing in erotic novels. I thought Zoe went along with the scheme really easily. Even if she is an out-of-work actress, she had to understand that the plan would tie her personally to the project, something that would stick with her long after the bit was over.

Chris was my favorite character. I often find myself the youngest in a group with a shared interest. That happens when your interests are book clubs, knitting, or (apparently) dominos. He seemed like a really nice guy and I wanted him and Zoe to wind up together. That seems like the subject of a sequel. His motivation was the strongest, I felt, because of his tie to the bar. He was also the most realistic character among the four men, except for maybe Marcus. Justin and David were a bit over the top.

I could relate to the four men. There are some things I’ve written that I’m not totally proud of and that I would prefer not have my name tied to. One of my published stories is from the point of view of a man and I think having a feminine name to it would be odd, though not as weird as the situation in this story. I understand wanting to use a pen name and having to go on a press tour can make something like gender a bit obvious!

I appreciated that though the subject of the book was very risque, the movie was rather clean. There were references to some more taboo subjects, but the visual content of the book was nothing out of the ordinary. I can’t find a rating for it, but I assume it’s no more than PG-13 (or whatever international equivalent that may be).

I thought Zoe coming into a position of power in the book was a bit of a stretch. She never seems to act much like someone who’s manipulating the four men. She seems calm and detached through the process. A lot of what she demands of the guys and ends up deciding to act on comes via David and Jen which makes it even less believable. I would have liked to see her be malicious or for her not to push the guys to write more.

 

There’s a price to fame and the guys were afraid to pay it. It’s opening up about yourself and letting your life be on show. Zoe had to pay that because the guys didn’t want to and she was able to use that to her advantage. There was still a price to her for what she did, I think. She’s going to have the stigma of being an erotic writer attached to her acting career for a long time. I seriously felt she would have considered this more!

Writer’s Takeaway: There’s always a bubble you can chase and try to get famous off of. It’s a matter of writing something you believe in, something you won’t be ashamed to have yourself tied to. If David and used the time and effort to write the novel he believed in, he might be a well-respected writer instead of the rep of his sister-in-law who didn’t write a word. I like to think he’ll finally write his book at some point.

Fun story and premise for a writer. Three 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!

‘Affinity’ Movie- Still really good and creepy!

16 Mar

Image via MoviePosters2

I read the book Affinity for my book club way back in October of 2013 but my interest in it was recently rekindled when someone commented on my book club reflection for the book. I found out there’s a movie version! And my library owns it! It’s been a while since I read the book, but I wanted to see what the movie had to offer. I don’t remember all of the details of the book but I’ll do my best here to compare the two.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Seeing Peter Quick. I won’t say too much, but I think the final scene with Peter was much easier to follow than the book. I struggled to see the crime scene while reading the book but seeing the film made it a lot clearer how everything was playing out.

The locket. I think I missed the connection with the locket when I was reading the book initially and had to have my book club point it out to me. Being able to see the physical object helped. I’ll add here that seeing other things that were connected was much easier in the film.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Margaret seeing other visitors. It was always clear that Margaret was only seeing other women to appease the matrons so taking that out of the movie was just a way to cut filler. I did think it made Margaret a bit more suspicious, though. She was obviously spending far too much time with Selena and I think more would have been done to stop her.

Less focus on the Spiritual Society. I remember the library playing a bigger part in the book and feeling like the book was a bit off course during those parts. It seemed like a distraction from the action and main plot that wasn’t really developing Selena well. I was fine with the minimized role it played in the movie.

Image from Goodreads

Affinity by Sarah Waters

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

This part is hard to write so long after reading the book. I do remember a big focus on wearing mourning clothes and while Margaret keeps to the black, it’s never brought up or mentioned which I thought strange.

Things That Changed Too Much

Theophilus. I don’t remember him from the book, but maybe that’s time fading the story. I remember the romance between Selena and Margaret, but I don’t remember him. Maybe it was played up a bit in the film? The actor made the part very memorable.

The ending. While the voiceover mirrored the text, you really had to read into the meaning of the words to understand what Margaret was doing (I’m trying so hard not to give too much away for anyone interested!). In the film, it was a little too obvious. I felt like something I had to dig for was just given to viewers.

Having such a long time between the two has really dampened my memory of the book. I remembered the big points, but picking out smaller changes has been hard. Reader, have you see the Affinity movie? What did you think? Was it close to the book?

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, 15-March-2017

15 Mar

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: Again, nothing with Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs. Husband has been traveling a lot lately, which is very unlike him! I’m usually the one out and about, haha.
I think I read five pages of The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler on Friday and I was really excited about it. Still reading has been bogging me down a lot and with Spring Break this week (WOO!) I’m hoping to get back to this a bit.
I made myself read a good chunk of Night Soldiers by Alan Furst over the weekend. I gave myself a no-TV rule and it really worked! It’s still going to be tight to finish it before it’s due, though.
At my library board meeting, I was reminded that we have an author coming to visit soon, David Maraniss, who will talk about his book Once In a Great City about Detroit. I got an audiobook copy of this one over the weekend and started in on it right away.

Recently finished: Was able to finish up The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson during a long workout on Saturday. I’m so relieved to have finished something! My review went up Monday so please go check it out!

Reading Next: Again, nothing planned. I think I’ll need a physical book next and I’ll grab whatever looks right off of my shelf. I’m going to let myself enjoy the freedom in that for once!


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!

My Bookshelves

14 Mar

I’m sad to say my reading speed is not keeping up with my posting speed! I blame school (because it’s easy to). It’s forcing me to come up with some more creative things to post here that still relate to books and reading. I hope none of you mind! I thought today I’d take you on a brief tour of my bookshelves.

I don’t believe bookshelves are only for books! You can see I keep a number of knickknacks on my shelves. The right one has some games, travel mementos, and a lot of my Harry Potter keepsakes. The center one has some keepsakes and the left has pictures, coin banks, and some workout equipment. If there’s space on the shelves, I’ll fill it! I also love having things on top so you’ll see our wine rack, my paper model of the Titanic, and a wedding picture with our families.

The left and right bookshelves, the bigger ones, house books I’ve read or don’t intend to read, either because they’re my husband’s school textbooks or they’re reference books. These are alphabetized by author and further by title. In the event of a series, I keep the series together.

The center bookshelf is my TBR. Yes, I have a physical TBR. The LOVE book in the middle is an ArtFolds of Sense and Sensibility that I did over a year ago and I love it (even if I didn’t love the book). I keep this book in TBR order, based on what’s been on my Goodreads TBR shelf the longest. This is the first time in over a year that I haven’t had anything on the bottom shelf, so I had to find another way to fill it. Those volumes are the publications of my short stories. There’s three of them there. You can always read more about my publications on this page (linked in my top menu). I’d love to keep this shelf empty going forward, but that might not be feasible because book buying is so addicting. And hey, I’m trying to get another story published so maybe I can fill it that way!

One of the best feelings I can experience is taking a book off my TBR and moving the books after it forward, creating space at the bottom. I love this feeling! It’s a feeling of seeing physical progress of reading. I tend to do it at night when my husband can’t watch the goofy-happy look on my face.

The exception to my organization is the top two shelves of my left bookshelf. This is where I keep my signed books! The dust jacket on the upper left is a book I lent a co-worker who was fired before I could get it back. I doubt I’ll ever see it again and I ended up reading the ebook of it anyway. The rest of the top shelf is signed books I have yet to read. These are listed in TBR order as well.

The second shelf (bottom in this picture) contains my read-signed books. I’m almost out of space for them to share with the A and Bs of my read books (to the right of the big candle) so I slowly keep moving the As and Bs down to make space for read-signed books.

As you can see, I’m almost out of room! Pretty soon, I’m probably going to buy a half-bookcase which will go on the other side of the room from this one. I’m thinking of having that one house only my YA series books, mainly Harry Potter but also allowing room for The Maze RunnerThe Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and The Hunger Games. Depending on space, I might include other series as well, or go with just J.K. Rowling works.

Thanks for taking this tour with me! This was really fun to write. I’ll try to buckle down and read some more with all the craziness going on in life, but I may have to find more fun reading things to post about for a bit.

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: The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson (4/5)

13 Mar

I wanted to read this book when I thought Bryson was a little more dry and scholarly and a little less fun and quirky. I thought it would be more systematic instead of picking up on the fun parts of language history. I read another of his books, realized I was mistaken, and still wanted to read another because they are fun and entertaining. They can make a long drive or a long run much less terrible.

Cover Image via Goodreads

The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson

Other books by Bill Bryson reviewed on this blog:

Made In America

Summary from Goodreads:

With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, Bill Bryson–the acclaimed author of The Lost Continent–brilliantly explores the remarkable history, eccentricities, resilience and sheer fun of the English language. From the first descent of the larynx into the throat (why you can talk but your dog can’t), to the fine lost art of swearing, Bryson tells the fascinating, often uproarious story of an inadequate, second-rate tongue of peasants that developed into one of the world’s largest growth industries.

Listening to this book was a joy. I didn’t have to worry about the different pronunciations Bryson talked about or read them in the phonetic alphabet because the narrator did it for me! A lot of this book talked about the language’s shift from old English to modern English, the words we lost and gained along the way, where words come from, and how they’re preserved or dropped. It’s clear there were a few resources Bryson relied heavily on for certain chapters. He organized the book well and was able to explain how certain words come to be in a very amusing way. I wasn’t ready for this book to be funny and I got looked at while running at the gym for spitting out a few giggles.

There were two parts of the book I really enjoyed. The first was the detail of how British English and American English came to be pronounced differently. Bryson detailed how English was before the American Settlers came over and then how the two changed since then. I ‘ve always wondered why we speak so differently. The theory that they will one day become so dissimilar as to be different languages is interesting, but as Bryson points out, modern technology has Americans, Brits, Australians, and South Africans speaking to each other via the internet so frequently, that future differences are less likely to happen.

My other favorite part was talking about names and how that developed. It’s fairly easy for me to see where my name, Stevens, came from (likely a shortening of Stevenson, ‘Steven’s son’) but it was fun to hear about other last names. Bryson also went into details about place names and I was happy to hear so many Michigan cities mentioned. Of course, Detroit coming from the French was mentioned, but I was glad he also mentioned Milan. I first saw the city name written down and asked, “Where is Milan?” pronouncing it like the Italian city. I got a stern look and was reproached, “It’s MY-lan.” With a long I. Same with Lima, Versailles, and Charlotte (other cities I drive by in the Midwest pronounced LYE-ma, ver-SALES, and shar-LOT).

The chapter on the dictionary was the least interesting to me. It did emphasize how quickly the language was evolving, but I thought there was a lot more history on a few men in this chapter than any developments in the language. I would have liked to see a shorter chapter on it and maybe a bit more focus on how the dictionary preserved pronunciations or changed them.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Stephen McLaughlin. Kudos to him for having to pronounce so many words in a variety of languages and accents. One of the later chapters had to deal with word games in French and he rambled them off like a pro. If he was off with any of his pronunciations, I’m none the wiser because his Spanish was spot-on when used and the little I know of Italian and German was well done, too.

Bryson’s focus was on how the language has changed, but he also talked about things that had stayed the same. I appreciated hearing about how words had changed very little since Shakespeare’s time. He also focused on how it could evolve going forward which was almost alarming. English words are being adopted into most world languages mainly due to innovation and English words being used for things and concepts that did not exist previously. If you know another language, think of words for technology and new concepts. In Spanish, I’ve heard both ‘el internet’ and ‘el márketing’ used even if there are Spanish words for these things (el red y el mercadotecnica). Bryson points out that Japanese does this the most. With English words infiltrating foreign languages and English becoming the common language for business, we might start to lost the beauty of other languages and in fact, start to lose speakers of those languages.

Writer’s Takeaway: Bryson hides some jokes in his writing, like when talking about where the last name ‘Bush’ came from. I enjoyed these small jokes tucked into the book. I’m not sure how well they would work in fiction, but in non-fiction, which can be dry, Bryson kept it interesting and fun. I really appreciated this in a book that easily could have been bogged down in details.

I enjoyed this book and I’m sure I have loads of fun facts to spring on people now. 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:
The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way // by Bill Bryson | The Aroma of Books